Merck Cancer Shot Offers Longer Protection: Study

A new study shows that Merck's Gardasil vaccine protects some young women from a strain of a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer for nearly a decade.

Up until now, there's only been evidence that the series of three shots for the human papillomavirus offers coverage out to five years. The new results from a test on nearly 300 women between 16 and 26 years old indicates the vaccine is still working for, on average, eight-and-a-half years. But overall, protection ranged from 7.2 years to as long as 9.5 years. The findings apply to just one of the four HPV strains covered by Gardasil, but it is one of the strains that is a leading cause of cervical cancer.

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Dr. Laura Koutsky with the University of Washington's School of Public Health is quoted in a Merck press release as saying, "We are encouraged by the extended efficacy data for the HPV 16 component of Gardasil." Merck says it's a co-author of the original data and this new analysis which researchers presented at a scientific conference in Sweden Friday morning.

Merck is trying to reinvigorate sales of Gardasil which plummeted 33 percent in the first quarter. It is also hoping to win FDA approval of the vaccine for older women and young males who carry and transmit the virus.

GlaxoSmithKline is in the final stages of developing a similar vaccine called Cervarix.

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