New cervical cancer vaccine being trialled

In collaboration with the Press Association

A new vaccine that provides protection against nine of the most harmful strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) is being tested in the US.

Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) are conducting trials to compare the new 'nine-valent' vaccine with Gardasil, a vaccine that was licensed for use within the EU in September 2006.

Gardasil works against HPV types 16 and 18 - which cause around 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases - and types 6 and 11 - which cause around 9 out of ten cases of genital warts.

If approved, the new vaccine would protect against these types, as well as a further five cancer-causing strains of the virus.

Dr Daron Ferris, director of the MCG Gynecologic Cancer Prevention Centre, confirmed: "We're testing Gardasil against three different doses of the investigational vaccine.

"This study will determine the best dose of the new vaccine and whether it is safe, well-tolerated and effective in preventing HPV infection and disease compared with what's already out there."

The vaccine works by tricking the body into thinking it has been infected by HPV so that an immune response is activated.

It contains virus-like particles that form a hollow sphere resembling the protective coating of HPV.

Dr Ferris explained: "Since the sphere lacks the actual viral DNA on the inside, it cannot cause HPV. But the body is tricked into making antibodies to protect against the real thing."

The researcher also pointed out that women taking part in the vaccine trial, who will be aged between nine and 26, will all benefit from vaccination against HPV, as the Gardasil vaccine will act as the control.

"Either they'll be vaccinated against four or nine types of HPV. It's a win-win situation," he said.