Page last updated at 04:31 GMT, Friday, 7 October 2005 05:31 UK

Cervical cancer jab 'in a year'

Image of a vaccine
The vaccine could be given to girls as young as 10 to 13

A vaccine shown to be 100% effective against two virus strains that cause most cervical cancer could be available within a year, say manufacturers.

Gardasil worked against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV).

Some 12,167 women aged 16 to 23 from 13 countries, including the UK, took part in the drug company study.

Researchers believe a vaccine could work best if given before adolescence, but critics fear this could encourage under-age sex.

Merck's vaccine is in head-to-head competition with a rival from UK-based GlaxoSmithKline called Cervarix.

Cervical cancer kills 274,000 women worldwide every year, including 1,120 in the UK. It is unusual in that most cases are known to be caused by a viral infection.

The two-year Future II trial found Gardasil was 100% effective at preventing early stage cancers and pre-cancerous abnormalities caused by the two key strains of HPV - the 16 and 18 strains - which cause 70% of cervical cancers.

Similar results were previously seen in a smaller trial of 277 women.

These results add to the mounting evidence that cervical cancer vaccines offer great promise for the future
Dr Anne Szarewski, Cancer Research UK

Dr Anne Szarewski, clinical consultant at Cancer Research UK, said: "These results add to the mounting evidence that cervical cancer vaccines offer great promise for the future.

"It appears we may soon be able to prevent the majority of cases. With any disease caused by a virus, the best way to stop it is to prevent it with a vaccine."

However, she said a woman should remember that an abnormal smear result does not necessarily mean she will go on to get cervical cancer. Many abnormalities get better on their own and disappear.

Also, she said it would take many more years to know whether a vaccine continued to offer long term protection and that it was therefore essential to continue with cervical screening - women attending for regular smear tests.

Julietta Patnick, director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes, said regular cervical screening was the best way of preventing cervical cancer.

All women registered with a GP should receive their first invitation at 25 and then every three years until they are 49. Women between 50 and 64 will be invited every five years.

Licence bids

Cambridge University's Professor Margaret Stanley said: "The results of Future II are so exciting because of the sheer size of the trial and the fact that it demonstrated 100% efficacy."

Professor Peter Rigby, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, was also excited by the findings.

He said: "Nearly 3,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, so it is very exciting to hear it may be possible to drastically reduce this number in the foreseeable future."

Gardasil's manufacturers - Sanofi Pasteur and Merck & Co Inc - are expected to apply for a US Food and Drug Administration licence to market the vaccine before the end of the year.

This will be followed by a licence application to the European Medicines Agency.

Although HPV is transmitted through sexual intercourse, a vaccine is likely to be administered to girls as young as 10 to 13 - critics says this could encourage under-age sex.

Gardasil also acts against HPV strains six and 11 which cause genital warts.

Would you have the jab?

Your comments:

To say that cervical cancer is a product of lifestyle is ignorant. As is stating that the vaccination would encourage under-age sex. A vaccination against cervical cancer would be welcomed by the majority of women and many men who care about their women.
K Montgomery, Derby

I am not surprised that Anon has made the above comments and chosen to hide their identity! I like the lady from Portsmouth had part of my cervix removed five years ago, as I had only had one sexual partner it certainly wasn't due to my "lifestyle". I would have gladly have had a routine vaccine when I was an adolescent to prevent the pain, anguish and worry I went through plus the six monthly colcoscopy for two years and now the yearly smear tests.
Lindy Kingsley, Canterbury, Kent

The focus on lifestyle and it being sexually transmitted is misplaced. I had a cone biopsy in my 20s. I had been married for five years and my husband was my only partner.
Anon, Rochester, Kent.

I agree with Jackie and Hugh, this in a wonderful break through, having endured years of smears and scares despite a "safe sex" lifestyle it would be wonderful to have been vaccinated as a child. I was vaccinated aged 11 for rubella and that certainly did not encourage me to have a baby underage so why would vaccinating against cervical cancer encourage under-age sex?
Rhyannon Boyd, Gloucestershire, UK

Having had cervical cancer at the age of 28, each smear since brings fear or re-occurrence, so to have this fear removed is fantastic news.
Anon, Portsmouth

As this particular type of cancer runs rampant in my mother's family, I think this is a marvellous leap forward. I would be thrilled to have such a vaccine available. I cannot believe that such a jab would encourage under-rage sex any more than would a pap smear.
Jennifer, Dallas, USA

I think the jab is a good thing and I don't think it will make teenagers rush out and have sex any more or less carelessly. It is not wildly know that cervical cancer can be the result of contracting a virus from unprotected sex. Masses of information is taught about HIV and AIDS but it would appear that twice as many woman die a year from cervical cancer than people do from AIDS.
S Ensby, London

This is fabulous news. I also heard on the radio that they will be starting tests on older women too. I had part of my cervix removed about seven years ago and have yearly smears. I would love to have the jab and be free of the fear of cancer developing. How ridiculous to suggest it will encourage under-age sex. Does the rubella jab encourage sex through getting rid of the fear of German measles? Madness.
Jackie Brown, Portsmouth

I am 44 years old, does this mean women of my age will not be allowed this vaccine and if not why?
Sharon Whittle, Bolton

Well. I'm not a woman, so I wouldn't have the jab. I just want to say that I think it's a bit stupid to think that a vaccine aimed at preventing cancer would encourage under-age sex. Even if it will make girls immune to one STD, there's a lot of others out there, and I don't think anyone would decide to have sex just because they'd had a single injection.
Hugh Adler, Dublin, Ireland

As usual it's mass medication for the majority when a minority get the illness due to their lifestyle. Shouldn't be giving a vaccine to children when it has only been tested for two years on a small number of people.
Anon, UK

video and audio news
See women's reactions to the breakthrough

Cervical cancer jab in two years
07 Apr 05 |  Health
Women needed to test cancer jab
01 Feb 05 |  Health
Vaccine against cervical cancer
29 Oct 04 |  Health
Virus causes most cervical cancer
23 Sep 03 |  Health
Cervical cancer vaccine success
20 Nov 02 |  Health
Cervical and uterine cancers
10 Jul 09 |  Health

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