LONDON, Apr 6 (Reuters) An experimental vaccine that protects women against a virus that causes cervical cancer is effective for more than four years, researchers said today.
They found that women given GlaxoSmithKline Plc's cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix had high levels of antibodies against the two most common types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) for up to 4-1/2 years after receiving their last dose.
''These findings set the stage for widescale adoption of HPV vaccination for prevention of cervical cancer,'' said Dr. Diane Harper, of Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire, who conducted the trial.
Results from the study also provide evidence that Cervarix protects against infection with the third and fourth most prevalent cancer-causing HPV types, Glaxo said.
Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers in women. Each year 470,000 women around the world are diagnosed with the disease and 230,000, mostly in the developing world, die, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection. Strains 16 and 18 are responsible for more than 70 percent of cervical cancers, while types 16, 18, 45 and 31 are collectively responsible for 80 per cent of cervical cancers.
Glaxo filed last month for European approval for Cervarix and expects to file for U S Food and Drug Administration approval by the end of this year.
The company lags rival Merck&Co., which filed for FDA approval of its experimental cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil, last year and expects a decision in June.
Both vaccines target the two most common cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus, while Merck's product also contains antigens against HPV types 6 and 11, which cause genital warts.
Results of a European survey released yesterday of more than 1,500 women in five EU countries showed that only 5 per cent could identify HPV as the cause of cervical cancer.
Harper and her team followed up 800 women who took part in the original trial of Cervarix in which it was compared to a placebo.
Their research is published online by The Lancet medical journal.
Women given Cervarix not only had high levels of antibodies against HPV-16 and HPV-18 but the levels did not decrease over time.
Glaxo has estimated the market opportunity for the new cancer vaccines at between 3.5 billion dollars and 7 billion dollars a year by 2010.
Merck plans to market its vaccine in partnership with Sanofi-Aventis in Europe.
Reuters SHB DB0927