A modified version of the smallpox vaccine is being tested against cervical cancer. Human papilloma virus (HPV) is associated with 95% of cervical cancer cases, but not everyone with the virus develops the cancer. Cervical cancer affects about 465,000 women worldwide each year and causes 300,000 deaths. If it is diagnosed and treated in its earliest stages there is a high survival rate.
Doctors at Britain's Cancer Research Campaign hope the vaccine will boost the immune system's response to the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is linked to most cases of the illness, and prevent early cell changes from developing into cervical cancer. A modified version of the smallpox vaccine is being used because it has been shown to produce the type of immune response that the researchers are looking for.
In addition to treating women with pre-cancerous cell changes, scientists are also working on vaccines for women with advanced disease and preventive vaccines to protect young girls from becoming infected with HPV.