May 18, 2007
Study shows Gardasil guards against vaginal, vulval cancers; Arizona lawmakers block debate over vaccine
The results of an international study appearing this week in the journal The Lancet show that Merck’s cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil also protects women against vulval and vaginal cancers. The findings seem to confirm that the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is responsible for virtually all cases of cervical cancer, is also responsible for many cases of vulval and vaginal cancer. HPV is present in 80% of the 6,000 cases of vulval and vaginal cancer cases diagnosed in the US each year, according to the study. The findings of the study were first presented at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology last year. Although less common than cervical cancer, vulval and vaginal cancers are becoming more widespread. The incidence of in situ carcinoma increased more than 400% in the US between 1973 and 2000. Invasive vulval cancer increased by 20% during the same period. Merck’s Gardasil was developed to target four strains of HPV, two of which (HPV 16 and 18) are linked to cervical cancer and to vulval cancer, and two (HPV 6 and 11) which cause anogenital warts. In other Gardasil related news, State lawmakers in Arizona made a pre-emptive move to block health officials in that state from mandating teenage girls to receive the vaccine, The Arizona Republic reports. The Arizona Senate has inserted an unusual prohibition in its bipartisan budget proposal to prevent health officials from debating the merits of making the vaccine mandatory for schoolchildren. It would prevent Arizona health officials from even having the conversation. State health officials, who have the authority under state law to decide which vaccine to require, say the prohibition is unnecessary. The vaccine is not even on the list of those they will consider requiring in coming years. But some would like to have the option eventually and worry that the Senate move sets a dangerous precedent.