Trials of the injection are advanced and have been highly successful, said Anne Szarewski, who is leading the race to produce a preventive treatment. But she said the fact that the vaccine protected against a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer could deter parents from allowing their daughters to have it.
Up to 70 per cent of cervical cancers are caused by the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). While three- quarters of sexually active women and men are exposed to HPV at some point, most have no symptoms. In 1 to 2 per cent of cases, it can cause abnormalities that may become cancer.
About 3,000 women in Britain are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and a third die.
Dr Szarewski said: "I think there will be a huge political issue about vaccinating young girls against what is effectively a sexually transmitted infection, and all the parental concerns."
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), with whom Dr Szarewski is working, and Merck are developing rival vaccines. Dr Szarewski said: "I suspect we will have a vaccine within the next five years."Reuse content