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JOURNAL: New England Journal of Medicine.
AUTHORS: Christopher Crum
ABSTRACT: Early testing shows an experimental vaccine to be 100 percent effective against the virus that causes cervical cancer, raising doctors’ hopes of someday sending the lethal disease into retreat in the same way as smallpox and polio.
COMMENTARY: The new vaccine, aimed at the viral strain Type 16 responsible for about half the cases of cervical cancer, was tested on women ages 16 to 23 at 16 sites around the country in a study led by Merck & Co. and the University of Washington. Merck developed the vaccine and funded the research. The women were watched on average for almost a year and a half.
Of 768 women who got vaccine injections, none showed Type 16 infections or precancerous tissue. Of 765 who took dummy injections, 41 came down with persistent infections, and nine developed precancerous tissue.
Inoculated women built up almost 60 times the concentration of virus-fighting antibodies seen in naturally infected women. Some researchers had suspected that the mucous membrane on the cervix would pose a barrier to such antibodies.