We might soon have a vaccine to combat a disease (cervical cancer) that has been haunting the world. The pharmaceutical giant Merck had submitted details of a cervical cancer vaccine, shown to offer protection against 70% of the known types of infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Another vaccine, developed by GlaxoSmithKline wound soon be approved for use in Europe and other countries excluding the U.S. The vaccine is believed to be highly effective in preventing cervical cancer. The launch of the vaccine would be associated with few controversies regarding usage, age of administration and indications for the vaccination.
It is hoped that immunization of pre-teen girls would be made mandatory, as the vaccine has been shown to be effective in the induction of immunity, in this specific population. Issues related to promotion of premarital sex as a consequence of vaccination are yet to be resolved. Researchers feel that any therapy that has the potential to prevent cancer should be approved for use, surpassing emotional concerns.
The success of this programme, however, largely depends on sustained efforts. The vaccine is yet to be approved for use in countries, where a poor acknowledgement and acceptance of extramarital sex and premarital sex is still prevalent. The effect of the vaccine on males is yet to be analyzed.
Infection with human papilloma virus is a major risk factor in the development of cervical cancer. In fact, it accounts for 70% of all cervical cancers. Many different viral strains of the HPV exist. The most significant strain related to cervical cancer is subtypes HPV-16 and HPV-18, both of which can be counteracted by the vaccine. The Merck formulation can combat HPV-6 and HPV-11 subtypes.
More than 4,000 women die in the United States every year, due to cervical cancer. The mortality is much higher in countries where access to health care facilities (Pap smear) is very poor. This teat has the potential to detect pre-cancerous lesions that can turn cancerous sometime later.
The development of a vaccine cannot be viewed as a substitute for the Pap smear test as it does not confer any protection against 30% of cervical cancers, caused by other types of HPV. It can however reduce the false positive Pap smear reports, and save the investment involved in subsequent biopsies and other follow-up tests.
The successful development of the cervical vaccine would not have been possible if not for the isolation of a HPV protein, found to result in an immune stimulation against the virus. This has led to the massive production of a safe and efficient cervical cancer vaccine.
Organizations such as the Family Research Council and the Medical Institute for Sexual Health have expressed interest in the launch of the vaccine following approval by the FDA. The process of approval would be monitored by such organizations. Adequate knowledge about the availability of the vaccine and its use has to be imparted to medical professionals following approval by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Issues related to vaccination and seeking insurance also have to be further sorted before the vaccine can be marketed for commercial use.