A new vaccine against sexually transmitted human papillomavirus is more effective than the previous version and may protect against 90 percent of all cervical cancers worldwide, researchers said Wednesday.
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The vaccine, Gardasil 9, is made by Merck, which also funded the study of 14,200 women aged 16-26, published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Gardasil 9 protects against nine types of HPV virus, seven of which cause most cases of cervical cancer. The currently available Gardasil vaccine protects against only two cancer-causing types of HPV. The study found that in uninfected women who received the vaccine, Gardasil 9 was “97 percent effective at preventing high-grade cervical, vulvar and vaginal disease caused by HPV 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58, and was equally effective as the current Gardasil vaccine in preventing diseases caused by HPV 6, 11, 16 and 18.”
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Co-author Jack Cuzick of Queen Mary University of London described the findings as “significant.” “The new vaccine, Gardasil 9, is not only safe but will offer greatly improved protection against cervical and other cancers,” he said. “Gardasil 9 offers the potential to increase overall cervical cancer prevention from 70 to 90 percent, nearly eliminating this cancer among vaccinated women.” He added that vaccination must occur before girls and women are exposed to the virus. Our focus for prevention must be on girls aged 12-13, as the current UK vaccine program is doing, but the vaccine may also be appropriate for women 25-45 as part of a screening appointment,” he said. Gardasil 9 was approved in December 2014 by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in females aged nine to 26 and males aged nine 9 to 15.
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The approval of Gardasil 9 means there are three available vaccines against HPV — including Cervarix by GlaxoSmithKline and Gardasil. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and most sexually active adults will have it at some point in their lives. Often the infection clears the body on its own, but some strains can linger and lead to cancers of the cervix, anus, penis, vagina and throat. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, killing more than 250,000 women annually around the world. –AFP