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New cervical cancer vaccine on trial

An Australian company is trialling an experimental vaccine which could block 90 per cent of viral strains causing cervical cancer

Australian pharmaceutical company CSL is trialling an experimental vaccine which could block 90 per cent of viral strains causing cervical cancer.

The second generation vaccine uses the same technology as the existing vaccines Cervarix and Gardasil, which are on the National Immunisation Programme, but offer 70 per cent coverage.

The Queensland scientist behind the technology, former Australian of the Year Professor Ian Frazer, said the vaccine had exciting potential to offer protection from more strains of the sexually-transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV).

However, it was not yet known if it was possible to simply add more strains to a vaccine to get more protection, Prof Frazer said.

In an interview with the news agency AAP, Frazer said: "It would be unfortunate if people put off being vaccinated in the expectation that a better vaccine is coming along because it's still preliminary and we don't know if we can make it work."

The vaccine is being tested on woman aged 18 to 26 in 11 centres across Australia and New Zealand.

Dr Peter Richmond, head of the Vaccine Trials Group from the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth, said the composition was being kept secret, but it would protect against HPV types which cause 90 per cent of cervical cancer and most cases of genital warts.

With type 16 and 18 essentially blocked by Gardasil and Cervarix it was important to block against other types which may start to cause more cervical cancer in the future, he said.

Women enrolled in the study would receive either Gardasil or the trial vaccine and would be tracked over three years.

It would be at least five years before the new vaccine would be publicly available, Dr Richmond concluded.

30th September 2008

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