Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in women worldwide, resulting in nearly half a million diagnoses and 240,000 deaths each year. Every day in the United States ten women die from cervical cancer, according to Kevin Ault MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University School of Medicine, and one of the study authors.
But for the next generation of young women, a series of three shots of a new HPV vaccine marketed by Merck under the name Gardasil could make the difference in preventing cervical cancer. The vaccine targets HPV types 16 and 18, which cause about 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer. It also targets HPV types 6 and 11, which together cause about 90 percent of all cases of genital warts.
Researchers at more than a dozen international medical centers evaluated the efficacy of quadrivalent vaccine targeting HPV types 6, 11, 16, 18 in more than 12,000 women ages 15 to 26 in 13 countries for nearly three years. They found a near 100 percent efficacy rate in prevention of HPV types 16 and 18.
"It's the first vaccine designed specifically to prevent cancer," says Dr. Ault, one of the authors of the study and a key researcher in the development of the vaccine. "The two main things to emphasize are the vaccine efficacy and the safety. These clinical trials have consistent efficacy around 98 percent. And severe reactions to the vaccine appear to be rare.
According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than 20 million men and women in the US are infected with HPV, and more than six million new infections are