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HPV Vaccine-what's the scoop on it?
Nov 28, 2002

Hi. Is it possible that the vaccine that looks promising for cervical cancer can also be helpful in anal cancer? Is this the same vaccine many of us receive to prevent hepatitis B? Thanks.

Response from Dr. Dezube

This query refers to an article which appeared in the Nov. 21, 2002issue of New England Journalof Medicine. In this striking article, researchers describe an HPV vaccine which was administered to almost 2400 women who were not yet infected with HPV. The vaccine was 100% effective in preventing pre-invasive cervical cancer and 100% effective in preventing persistent HPV-16 infection. These data are truly unremarkable! I must point out that this vaccine was given to women WHO WERE NOT YET INFECTED. Only future studies will determine if it will block anal HPV infection if it were to be given to men who do not yet have HPV infection and who receive the vaccine (my hunch is that it will be effective in this setting).

A much more difficult question to answer is will the vaccine help folks who are ALREADY INFECTED BY HPV or who ALREADY HAVE ANAL CANCER. There is no evidence that this vaccine will reverse either cervical cancer or anal cancer once these have developed. Stay tuned, there is sure to be much more research pertaining to this very exciting development.

This vaccine has absolutely nothing to do with Hepatitis B.

I have received a dozen or so queries about the HPV vaccine. So my answer above hopefully incorporates the answers to many of these queries. A few folks asked about time frame for availability. It takes years, and many of them, to bring a drug to market. The best thing patients can do to speed up the process is to volunteer for clinical trials.

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