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For those women having survived certain gynecologic cancers, there is welcome news from the University of Alabama - Birmingham. The cancers involved are those known to be caused by the human papillomavirus and include cervical, vaginal and vulvar cancers and certain precancerous lesions. While HPV is known to also cause anal cancers, this was not included as part of the study.
The Gardasil vaccine, produced by Merck Pharmaceuticals was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006 for use in females ages 9 to 26. Subsequently in 2009, it was approved for males of the same age group. The vaccine protects against precancerous and cancerous lesions resulting from two high risk strains of HPV known to cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and two low risk strains known to cause 90 percent of genital warts. The vaccine has, until now, not been recommended for use by those who have already developed precancerous lesions or invasive cancer; however, this may be changing.
In a research study conducted at UAB the results of which were announced at last year's annual meeting of the Society of Gynecological Oncologists, use of the vaccine reduced by approximately 40 percent the recurrence of precancerous and cancerous lesions for up to 3.8 years after an individual has had surgery for one of these conditions.
According to Warner Hub, MD, a senior scientist at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center which conducted the research, “the results are encouraging because patients treated for HPV-related disease are known to be at higher risk for contracting the same disease post-operatively. Reducing the risk and need of a secondary procedure is an important step in improving women’s care.”
The results were the compilation of three separate trials conducted in the United States, Europe and Asia and involving over 18,000 women ages 16 to 26. The study not only showed a reduction in the need for secondary procedures but also in the number of abnormal Pap smears within the group having received the vaccine by 43 percent as compared to the control group.