VINELAND, NJ (August 17) – With its June approval of the first vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV) – the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States – the federal Food and Drug Administration authorized a powerful new weapon against cervical cancer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that all 11- and 12-year old girls receive the anti-cancer vaccine.
According to the according to the National Cancer Institute, studies have shown that virtually all cervical cancers result from HPV infections, which affect some million American men and women. HPV infections often cause no symptoms, but some types can cause genital warts. The new vaccine, Gardasil manufactured by Merck & Co., has proved in clinical trials to protect against the two types of HPV, 16 and 18, that cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers, the FDA said. This vaccine also prevents infection with the two types of HPV, 6 and 11, responsible for 90 percent of genital warts.
“This is a major landmark in cancer prevention,” said Dr. Ronald Pomante, a board-certified gynecologist on staff at South Jersey Healthcare. “Widespread vaccination can vastly reduce cases of invasive cervical cancer that kill more than 230,000 women worldwide every year.” In the United States each year, there are about 9,700 new cases of invasive cervical cancer and 3,700 deaths from the disease, the American Cancer Society estimates.
Research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in June indicated that the vaccine was 100 per cent effective against precancerous lesions of the vagina and vulva that lead to cancer of these organs, though these occur rarely. The same cancer causing HPV types 16 and 18 are also associated with cancers of the penis, anus, some head and neck cancer and a tumor-like respiratory condition.
Clinical studies of the vaccine in males are expected to be complete by 2008. ACIP voted to add the HPV vaccine to those covered by the federal Vaccines for Children program, which covers vaccinations for uninsured and underinsured youngsters. The committee said that girls could receive the series of three shots as early as age 9 at their doctor’s discretion. ACIP also advised vaccination for 13- to 26-year-old females until widespread preteen immunization makes vaccination at later ages unnecessary. The vaccine is licensed for use only between ages 9 and 26 because that was the age range of the test group.
“Most importantly, children should receive the vaccination before they become sexually active,” said Dr. Pomante. “And women should continue to have screening with an annual Pap tests, since the vaccine won’t eliminate all causes of cervical cancer. The Pap test can find abnormal cells before they become cancerous.”
Dr. Pomante pointed out that the new HPV vaccine is the second vaccine capable of preventing a human cancer, although it is the first created specifically to do so. The hepatitis B vaccine developed at Fox Chase Cancer Center in the 1970s has been shown to reduce many cases of hepatitis-related primary liver cancer in countries where people are infected with hepatitis B at an early age.
South Jersey Healthcare is affiliated with Fox Chase through Fox Chase Network, a select group of community hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that work with Fox Chase Cancer Center to provide the latest in cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in their own communities.
To learn more about the HPV vaccine and cervical cancer prevention, call SJH Cancer Services at (856) 575 – 4430.
SJH is a nonprofit, integrated health care system, providing access to a continuum of health services. SJH provides hospital services, numerous community health clinics, home health services, and specialty services, which serve the medical and health care needs of Southern New Jersey residents. Please visit www.sjhealthcare.net to learn more.