For women, cervical cancer is the fourth most widespread cancer, and in developing countries it is the most common cause of cancer death. A new study from researchers at Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital and the Victorian Cytology Service has found that a new HPV vaccine could prevent up to 93 percent of all cervical cancers.
For some time now we have known that infection with the Human papillomavirus (HPV) is necessary for a woman to develop cervical cancer. There are up to 200 types of HPV, but the majority of cases (75 percent) of cervical cancers are thought to be caused by one of two types – HPV 16 and 18. The current quadrivalent HPV vaccine in use, Gardasil, protects against those two key types of HPV.
In their recent study researchers looked at 847 cervical cancer samples from Australian women. The goal was to study what types of HPV were most prevalent in causing cervical cancer. Not unexpectedly, 77 percent of the samples showed HPV 16 or 18, while another 16 percent of cancers showed five other common HPV types (31, 33, 45, 52 and 58).
These other common HPV types are included in this latest vaccine to be developed, called Gardasil 9. The vaccine was approved for use in the US in late 2014, and in Australia it is hoped to become part of the National HPV Vaccination Program as soon as next year.
“The new vaccine still protects against genital warts but is expanded to cover the seven most common viral types that cause cervical cancer,” says the new study’s senior author Professor Suzanne Garland. “I do believe that if we continue with this high coverage of vaccination, we could almost wipe out cervical cancer in women.”