Vaccine prevents cervical cancer

11/20/2002 Robert Bazell New England Journal of Medicine Experimental injection found 100 percent effective against virus that causes disease. Early testing shows an experimental vaccine to be 100 percent effective against the virus that causes cervical cancer, raising doctors’ hopes of someday sending the lethal disease into retreat in the same way as smallpox and polio. “IT APPEARS to be the real thing,” said Dr. Christopher Crum, a pathologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “You’re looking at some very compelling evidence that this vaccine will prevent cervical cancer.” It remains unclear how long the protection might last. Even so, researchers say a vaccine could reach the market within five years or so. The findings were published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine. TARGETING HPV Vaccines work by teaching the body's immune defenses to recognize invading viruses and bacteria. Most types of cancer, by contrast, are blamed largely on genetic mutations and environmental factors. However, virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by a sexually transmitted virus - the human papilloma virus. A vaccine for cervical cancer is urgently being sought because the disease strikes about 450,000 women worldwide each year, killing about half. It is the leading cancer killer of women in the developing world. In the United States, where Pap tests are widely used for screening, it develops in about 13,000 women annually and kills about a third. The new vaccine, aimed at the viral strain Type 16 responsible for about half the cases [...]