New VaccineS Against Cervical Cancer Major Opportunity for Developing World

2006-12-13 16:53 1339

LONDON and GENEVA, Dec. 13 /Xinhua-PRNewswire/ -- The introduction of new

vaccines against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes cervical

cancer, could have a major impact on the health of women in the developing

world. More than 250 000 women died from cervical cancer in 2005 -- the vast

majority in developing countries.

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Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer among women,

with deaths projected to rise by almost 25 per cent over the next 10 years,

according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2005 there were more

than 500 000 new cases of cervical cancer, of which over 90 per cent were in

developing countries. Left untreated, invasive cervical cancer is almost

always fatal.

Well-organized screening and early treatment programmes have been very

effective in preventing the most common kind of cervical cancer but they are

costly and difficult to implement in low-resource settings. In 2006, a

vaccine that protects against infection and disease associated with the HPV

was licensed, and another vaccine may be licensed soon.

The recently licensed vaccine is effective in preventing infections with

the HPV types (16 and 18) that cause approximately 70 percent of all cervical

cancers, as well as in preventing infections with those types (6 and 11) that

cause approximately 90 percent of genital warts. This and another HPV

vaccine are under regulatory review in countries around the world and may

offer a new opportunity to eliminate cervical cancer, the number-two cancer

killer of women.

"New vaccines against HPV in the developing world could save hundreds of

thousands of lives if delivered effectively," said Dr Howard Zucker, WHO

Assistant Director-General for Health Technology and Pharmaceuticals. "The

roll-out of effective HPV vaccines is important for several reasons: They

help in combating a deadly cancer and are a potent technology to add to

existing cancer control programmes based on prevention, screening and


The vaccines -- which are initially targeted at girls and may be expanded

to boys in the future before or around the time of first sexual activity --

offer the unique opportunity to address segment of the populations that are

traditionally difficult to reach: young adolescents. Thus, a multifaceted

strategy should exploit the opportunity to promote sexual and reproductive

health by strengthening health programmes for adolescents.

"We don't know the final cost of the vaccine in developing countries,"

said Arletty Pinel, Chief, Reproductive Health Branch of UNFPA. "But, we can

be certain it is going to be a major challenge to introduce quickly where it

is needed most -- in the poorest countries. Eighty per cent of women who die

of cervical cancer are generally poor and live in underserved areas. They

will be the ones to benefit most from affordable prices and access to this


Mobilizing resources for strengthening health systems and purchasing HPV

vaccines, both nationally and internationally, must be a priority and there

must be innovative ways to finance HPV introduction. At an international

level, partnerships will be needed to try to reduce the usual time-lag

between formal registration and availability in developed countries, and

establishing a negotiated price and adequate production capacity to supply

developing countries.

In addition to being a new tool for the prevention of a very common form

of cancer, the introduction of effective HPV vaccines has other potential

benefits for health systems in general. The roll out of such vaccines could

help build synergies among immunization, cancer control and sexual and

reproductive health. It also has the potential to provide valuable

experience for the introduction of any future vaccine against HIV.

Source: World Health Organization