Friday, October 07, 2005

Vaccine Blocks Most Cervical Cancers (and other news on the medical front)

Cancer of the cervix kills 3,900 American women every year. That is actually a low death rate, because widespread Pap screening means that most of the cancers are caught early. Worldwide it kills 250,000 women a year. Most of the cervical cancers are caused by infection with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). HPV-16 causes about 50% of cervical cancer, while HPV-18 causes another 20%. There is no cure for HPV infection, and the primary treatment for cervical cancer is a hysterectomy.

There is good news, though. Merck has announced that a trial of their new vaccine, "Gardasil", blocks essentially 100% of HPV-16 and HPV-18 caused cervical cancer. As a bonus, it also provides immunity to HPV-6 and HPV-11, which cause 90% of genital warts. GlaxoSmithKline has a similar vaccine, Cervarix, that is scheduled to be on the market in 2007.Ideally children, both boys (who can be carriers) and girls, would be immunized, but Merck's study showed the vaccine was effective in adult women.

Hopefully, this doesn't turn out to be "too good to be true".

Read the full story at the LA Times.

In other news:
- Deadly 1918 influenza virus (killer of 50 million) brought back to life
- Pandemic influenza awareness week: Adventures with Avian Flu
- Cranberry and Oregano Make Seafood Safe to Eat
- "Fear of falling gait" can cause falls
- Antibody to a naturally-occurring sugar chain in colon inhibits inflammatory bowel disease

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