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SOL: Cervical Cancer Vaccine Nears Release Date

From The Streets of London

Cervical Cancer Vaccine Nears Release Date

By Malcolm Aitken

A cervical cancer vaccine with a 100 percent success rate in clinical trials may be widely available in little more than five years.

The drug, which is injected, builds up women’s immune systems to fight off the human papillomavirus (HPV) associated with cervical cancer. Final trials involving 6000 women globally and using a random placebo, are being carried out in the UK by pharmaceutical company Mercke, Sharp and Dohme.

Research findings presented in Paris recently from the vaccine’s first two trials involving 2700 women revealed the astonishing outcome that none of the women given the jab contracted cervical cancer.

Research manager for Cancer Research UK, Britain’s largest cancer charity, Dr Simon Vincent, told Scoop: ‘This is very good news for women and these results could be one of the biggest steps forward in preventing cancer for many years. However, it will not be of benefit to women who already carry the virus, and so it is very important that all women who are sexually active continue to visit their GP [HPV is sexually transmitted] when they are called for a routine cervical screening test. However, this vaccine could have a huge impact on preventing deaths from cancer, particularly in the developing world.’

Cervical cancer, the second biggest killer of UK women under 35, causes 1300 deaths here per year and blights the lives of about 4000 women who battle the disease. It can be treated successfully if caught early. However the UK’s smear testing programme-intended to detect it early-has been undermined by shortages of consultant doctors and patients receiving false negative results, only to later discover they have cervical cancer.

The forms of HPV the vaccine currently treats account for about 70 percent of cervical cancers, but experts are confident the other types will also be preventable with the final product.

It’s envisaged the vaccine will be administered to young people before they’re sexually active. With more youngsters having sexual intercourse earlier, deciding the age the jab’s first administered may prove controversial.


New Zealand situation

Scoop ran a story in July about New Zealand women aged 16 to 23 being asked to participate in the stage III trial: 300 women are being sought from Auckland and Christchurch. Latest reports suggest about 60 women have volunteered. Scoop readers interested in participating or who know someone who may want to should contact the New Zealand Family Planning Association on 0800 372 5463 or

About 80 New Zealand women die from cervical cancer annually and 200 women are diagnosed with invasive cancer of the cervix. Moreover, Maori women are over two-and-a-half times as likely to develop the disease as non-Maori women, according to Statistics New Zealand. Rates among Pacific Island women may be even higher.

Worldwide about 225 000 women die from the cancer annually.


Malcolm Aitken is a freelance journalist. He can be contacted at

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