The first ever-cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil is expected to be launched in New Zealand soon, targeting females between 9 and 24 years of age. Soon, men might also be given cervical cancer vaccines to prevent them from infecting their sexual partners and to protect themselves against several diseases.
The vaccine is currently under experimental phase, for demonstration of cervical cancer prevention. Most cases of cervical cancer can be attributed to human papilloma virus infection (HPV), spread through sexual contact. An association between the virus and anal cancer has also been observed, consistent with high reports of infection among gay men.
Previous vaccine trials had demonstrated the increase in antibody production against the four target HPV types, known to cause cancer and genital warts in both men and women. There could be a 70% reduction in the cervical cancer incidence if the vaccine is found to be effective in preventing HPV associated cervical cancers.
It has been found form numerous studies that 80% of the population is exposed to HPV at some point during their lifetime. A majority of this goes unnoticed, as there are no symptoms. The immune system may be effective in getting rid of the virus. A small group of people however develop persistent infections.
The effectiveness of the vaccine would be more relevant when it is administered before onset of sexual activity. Taking this fact into account, the ideal age for administration of the vaccine is considered to be 11 years. If approved for use, it can be incorporated as the last of injections on the national immunization schedule.
Cervical cancer represents a major health care burden haunting women. This may be the focus for increased clinical trials in women when compared to the poor attention given to prevention of HPV-linked cancers in men. However, large clinical trials involving men are being conducted, the results of which would be released in three years time.
In line with these clinical trials, GlaxoSmithKline is also testing a potential HPV vaccine. With such healthy competition among several pharmaceutical companies, we might perhaps soon put an end to the misery and suffering associated with at least one form of cancer.