Scientists from Queen Mary University of London have developed a new human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine that potentially protects against nine types of the virus -- seven that can cause most cases of cervical cancer.
The current HPV vaccine only protects against two cancer-causing types of HPV.
The researchers found that among uninfected women, 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.
Professor Jack Cuzick, who participated in the design and analysis of the study, co-authored a report on the findings, where were published in a recent issue of New England Journal of Medicine.
"This is a significant achievement,” Cuzick said. “The new vaccine, Gardasil 9, is not only safe but will offer greatly improved protection against cervical and other cancers. Eventually this will mean less screening is needed, as women will have greater protection from the outset. Gardasil 9 offers the potential to increase overall cervical cancer prevention from 70 to 90 percent, nearly eliminating this cancer among vaccinated women.
Cuzick warned that it's crucial to remember that vaccination must be done before exposure to the virus.
"Our focus for prevention must be on girls aged 12-13 ... but the vaccine may also be appropriate for women 25-45 as part of a screening appointment," Cuzick said.
Until late 2014, just Cervarix and Gardasil were available to protect against HPV-related diseases.
Researchers have been working to find ways to completely eliminate cervical cancer and other HPV-related disease. The development of the new Gardasil 9 vaccine takes a major step in that direction.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most-common cancer in women, with more than 500,000 cases and 250,000 deaths per year worldwide.
"Following these important findings, this vaccine has been licensed in the USA, and approval is currently being sought in the UK and other countries,” Cuzick said.