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Every year, 15,000 American women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. About one third of them will die from the disease. Now a new vaccine is showing incredible results against the virus that causes cervical cancer.
Most forms of cancer are caused by genetics or environment. But cervical cancer is different. It's caused by a virus that is trasmitted sexually-- the Human Papilloma Virus, or HPV.
Now researchers may have a vaccine that can block one strain of the virus, type 16, that is responsible for half of all cases of cervical cancer.
Dr. Jay Lalezari of Quest Clinical Research says, "The report from this study is really good news for women."
Dr. Lalezari took part in clinical trials of the vaccine. Researchers studied almost 2,400 women nationwide. Half got the vaccine, half got dummy injections. The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, show none of those who got the vaccine developed type 16 infections or precancerous tissue.
Of those getting dummy injections, 41 were infected and nine developed precancerous tissue.
"The importance of this study is proving proof of concept: Expose the immune system to the external coat of the virus and the immune system responds as if it were infected, and then protects those women against subsequent infection."
Stephanie Bousley took part in the clinical trials. She says knowing this study could help millions of women worldwide was important for her.
"Just because of the whole fact that it could end cervical cancer for women, that's huge. So I was very excited," she says.
While the vaccine only works against one strain of the HPV virus, research has already begun on another vaccine that would target four different forms of the virus, that are responsible for 90 percent of all genital warts cases and 70 percent of cervical cancers.
Because cervical cancer is the leading cancer killer of women in the developing world, an effective vaccine could help save hundreds of thousands of lives every year.