From the Journals

Success of HPV vaccination: ‘Dramatic’ reduction in cervical cancer


New data from England show the success of the national program for vaccinating girls against human papillomavirus (HPV) to prevent cervical cancer.

Among young women who received the HPV vaccine when they were 12-13 years old (before their sexual debut), cervical cancer rates are 87% lower than among previous nonvaccinated generations.

“It’s been incredible to see the impact of HPV vaccination, and now we can prove it prevented hundreds of women from developing cancer in England,” senior author Peter Sasieni, MD, King’s College London, said in a statement. “To see the real-life impact of the vaccine has been truly rewarding.”

“This study provides the first direct evidence of the impact of the UK HPV vaccination campaign on cervical cancer incidence, showing a large reduction in cervical cancer rates in vaccinated cohorts,” Kate Soldan, MD, U.K. Health Security Agency, London, commented in a statement.

Vanessa Saliba, MD, a consultant epidemiologist for the U.K. Health Security Agency, agreed, saying that “these remarkable findings confirm that the HPV vaccine saves lives by dramatically reducing cervical cancer rates among women.

“This reminds us that vaccines are one of the most important tools we have to help us live longer, healthier lives,” she added.

The study was published online Nov. 3, 2021, in The Lancet.

Approached for comment on the new study, Maurice Markman, MD, president, Medicine and Science Cancer Treatment Centers of America, noted that the results of the English study are very similar to those of a Swedish study of the quadrivalent vaccine alone.

“You can put any superlatives you want in here, but these are stunningly positive results,” Dr. Markman said in an interview. He said that, as an oncologist who has been treating cervical cancer for 40 years, particularly patients with advanced cervical cancer, “I can tell you this is one of the most devastating diseases to women, and the ability to eliminate this cancer with something as simple as a vaccine is the goal of cancer therapy, and it’s been remarkably successful.

“I can only emphasize the critical importance of all parents to see that their children who are eligible for the vaccine receive it. This is a cancer prevention strategy that is unbelievably, remarkably effective and safe,” Dr. Markman added.

National vaccination program

The national HPV vaccination program in England began in 2008. Initially, the bivalent Cervarix vaccine against HPV 16 and 18 was used. HPV 16 and 18 are responsible for 70% to 80% of all cervical cancers in England, the researchers note in their article.

In 2012, the program switched to the quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil), which is effective against two additional HPV types, HPV 6 and 11. Those strains cause genital warts.

The prevention program originally recommended a three-dose regimen in which both HPV vaccines were used. Currently, two doses are given to girls younger than 15 years. In addition, a single dose of the HPV vaccine provides good protection against persistent infection. The efficacy rate of a single dose is similar to that of three doses, the authors comment.


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