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A data review of 3 clinical trials showed that the cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil, also protects against vulvar and vaginal cancers. The vaccine, manufactured by Merck & Co, attacks 4 strains of human papillomavirus (HPV): HPV 16 and 18, which are linked to cervical cancer, and HPV 6 and 11, which cause anogenital warts. Researchers evaluated Gardasil in 18,000 women around the world; none had been exposed to HPV when the trial started. They were randomly assigned to receive 1 to 3 doses of either the vaccine or a placebo over a 6-month period, after which they were followed for 2 years. When the trial ended, 24 women in the placebo group had developed high-grade precancerous HPV-type 16 and 18 lesions, compared with none in the vaccine group. Lesions caused by HPV types other than 16 and 18 appeared in 27 patients in the placebo group and 5 patients in the vaccine groupmaking the vaccine 81% effective against cancers associated with any HPV type. This research was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Atlanta, Ga.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.