9 Jun 2006
A vaccine to help fight cervical cancer has been licensed for sale by the US Food and Drug Administration. The vaccine is intended for use on girls and women between the ages of 9 to 26 years. Produced under the brand name Gardasil by Merck & Co., the vaccine is expected to revolutionize the management of cervical cancer. It is claimed that the vaccine prevents four strains of the human papilloma virus (two of which are responsible for 70% of cervical cancer and the other two responsible for 90% genital wart cases).
In clinical trials the vaccine was found to be 100% effective in preventing pre-cancerous lesions. It is hoped that the vaccine will equally be effective in preventing cervical cancer. For now it is not yet known how long the prevention will last when administered.
“Bringing forward this lifesaving scientific advance is yet another testament to Merck’s long-standing mission to research and develop novel vaccines and medicines that can greatly improve public health.” An elated Merck CEO Richard Clark was quoted as telling associated press.
Cervical cancer is an abnormal growth in the cervix when some tissue cells multiply uncontrollably and destroy in the process normal tissue. It is the third most common cancer in women. The cervix is located at the bottom of the womb and includes the narrow opening between the vagina and the womb or uterus in the female.
Cervical cancer is compared to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) because of its close association with the human papilloma virus (HPV) and is spread by sexual intercourse. Up to 97% of women with cervical cancer are infected with HPV. About 300,000 women worldwide die annually (mostly from developing countries) from cancer of the cervix.
Studies indicate that people at risk of contracting cervical cancer include women that engage in sexual intercourse at an early age, those that have multiple sex partners or those whose male partners have multiple sex partners.
The arrival of this vaccine is seen as a major breakthrough as this is the first of its kind to be employed in the battle against cancer.
Njei Moses Timah