Merck seeks approval of new HPV vaccine

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- It’s the time of year when most people are focused on cold and flu shots. But one drug company is asking the FDA to approve another vaccine.

It's the HPV vaccine, and there's a new one that doctors say is very effective.

“It is our only vaccine that prevents cancer, so it is really exciting that we have that ability to do that for our kids,“ says Dr. Corina Veatch, with John C Lincoln Cave Creek Family Medicine.

The HPV vaccine is designed to protect against the human papilloma virus, “There are over 30 strains of HPV virus, and some of the strains cause cervical cancer; some cause genital warts," she says. "But there are also links to other cancer with the HPV virus. It is linked to oral pharyngeal cancer, vaginal cancers and penile cancers as well."

But until now, the most common vaccine, Gardasil, has been effective against only four of those many strains, she says, “Two of which cause cancer, two of which cause warts," she says.

But drug company Merck, which makes Gardasil, is now asking the FDA to approve a  new vaccine.
“This new vaccine will add five more of the strains that cause cancer,” Dr. Veatch says of the research. “So instead of preventing 70 percent of cervical cancer, we will be up to 90 percent prevention against cervical cancer.”

Dr. Veatch says that is a big plus, since there are still half a million new cases of cervical cancer worldwide each year, leading to some 270,000 deaths.

"It is really exciting to have cancer prevention,“ she says. “We throw so much into cancer study, cancer research, and most of that is for treatment of cancers.”

And while some parents do raise concerns about the vaccine, most doctors to recommend it for both girls and boys before they are sexually active.

"Right now it is the best weapon we have against HPV and the cancers it is tied to," she says. "The studies show that the three-shot series we are giving to kids provides them the immunity to HPV through at least early adulthood, as far we have studied."

FDA approval is expected early next year.