New HPV vaccine, Cervarix, shown to prevent multiple cancers

A multinational clinical trial, which tested nearly 20,000 young women, has shown that the human papilloma virus vaccine, Cervarix, displays the potential to prevent cervical cancer.

The vaccine has also demonstrated the ability to combat other common, cancer-causing human papillomaviruses, in addition to the two HPV types (16 and 18) that cause almost 70 percent of all cases.

These findings were recently published in Clinical and Vaccine Immunology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

The study outlines the results of the Papilloma Trial Against Cancer in Young Adults (PATRICIA), a trial that included 14 countries in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, North America, and Latin America. The trial did not investigate the vaccine's efficacy in males, but it should be noted that sexually transmitted HPV can cause anogenital problems, as well as cancer of the head and neck, in males and females alike.

"The study confirms that targeting young adolescent girls before sexual debut for prophylactic HPV vaccination has a substantial impact on the incidence of high grade cervical abnormalities," Director of The Sexual Health Clinic, Family Federation of Finland, Helsinki, and Corresponding Author Dan Apter said.

Cervarix was also shown to be beneficial to women who had never been infected with HPV, protecting the vast majority from HPV-16 and -18. Additionally, it protected 50-100 percent of subjects against different grades of precancerous transformation of cervical cells caused by other strains of HPV, including up to 100 percent of those with the immediate precursor grade to cancer.

All the female test subjects were monitored for up to four years after getting vaccinated.

The efficacy of the vaccine was significantly better among girls aged 15-17 than those women aged 18-25. The lower efficacy in the oldest age group may be caused by a larger proportion of females in that age group having had more aggressive infections at the time of vaccination, according to Apter.

"Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women, with estimates from 2012 indicating that there are 528,000 new cases and 266,000 deaths each year worldwide, with the majority of cases occurring in developing countries,” Apter said. “It is now established that having a persistent infection with HPV is a necessary cause of cervical cancer.”