Merck's Vaccine Against Pap Virus Effective in Young
May 20, 2005
Yesterday in Spain, Merck & Co. presented a study showing its experimental vaccine, Gardasil, protects against human papillomavirus (HPV), which is linked to cervical cancer. Later this year, Merck plans to ask the Food and Drug Administration to approve Gardasil, with the goal of getting federal regulators to recommend that all young people take the vaccination.
Merck said the vaccine produced a higher anti-HPV immune response among boys and girls ages 10-15 than in a group of women ages 16-23. Men can carry and spread HPV. The study measured immune-system response based on the development of HPV-specific antibodies in the blood, not the actual rate of infection. Of the four common types of HPV, adolescents in the study had a 100 percent antibody rate for three types, and a 99.9 percent antibody rate for the fourth. Among young women, the rate was 100 percent for three types and 99.1 percent for the fourth.
In April, Merck said Gardasil reduced the incidence of HPV-related infections that lead to cervical cancer and genital warts by 90 percent in a study of 552 women ages 16-23. Cervical cancer kills nearly 250,000 women each year. The American Cancer Society said about 10,370 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed this year, and 3,700 women will die from it.
Merck views Gardasil's target population as females ages 9-24 -- some 30 million to 40 million girls and women in the United States and Europe. Adolescent boys and young men are likely to be a harder sell. Since HPV is sexually transmitted, the vaccine is most effective when administered before people become sexually active.
In November, GlaxoSmithKline PLC and MedImmune announced promising results from a similar HPV vaccine. Analysts say that venture is not far behind Merck's effort.
Wall Street Journal
05.20.2005; Barbara Martinez
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.