Vaccine for cervical cancer 'successful'

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Successful trials of a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer have raised hopes of a breakthrough in the battle against the disease.

Successful trials of a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer have raised hopes of a breakthrough in the battle against the disease.

Hundreds of women given the drug so far have not developed the human papilloma virus (HPV) – the cause of most cases of cervical cancer. The drug, owned by the pharmaceutical firm Merck Sharp & Dohme, is still being tested.

Anne Szarewski, a clinical consultant at Cancer Research UK, said if the vaccine proved a success in the next trial it could be given to girls as young as 10 to prevent them contracting the disease in later life.

"The people who were given the vaccine, none developed any form of HPV," Dr Szarewski said. "In the control group who were not given the vaccine, some people did. This vaccine is many years ahead of others. It has undergone a fairly small trial – a phase II trial – of around a few hundred people. A phase III trial of thousands is under way."

The latest research is being co-ordinated by David Jenkins, a professor at Nottingham University. It involves testing 6,000 women worldwide including in Nottingham, Glasgow and London.

Every year, cervical cancer kills more than 1,000 women in Britain and about half a million women develop the disease across the world.

* Diseases including tuberculosis, malaria, measles, tetanus and whooping cough could re-emerge without urgent action to finance global immunisation programmes. The World Health Organisation is seeking £150m to develop new vaccines for drug-resistant strains of "old diseases" and to ensure every child is immunised.

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