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HPV vaccine to cure Cervical Cancer

February 21, 2019 | Expert Insights

According to a recent study published at the Cancer Council New South Wales, the rapid scale-up of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine could virtually eliminate cervical cancer in a handful of rich countries within the next three decades, and in most other nations by the end of this century.

Serum Institute of India is known to be working with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to develop a generic drug to ensure affordability of the drug. 


HPV is an extremely common sexually transmitted disease that includes more than 100 types of viruses, having a minimum of 14 cancer-causing strains. The virus is known to cause cervical cancer in women and has also been linked to cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina and penis.

It generally takes 15 to 20 years for cervical cancer to develop in women with normal immune systems. If the immune system is weak or compromised in the case of an HIV infection, cancer can develop more quickly.

The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) showed an estimated 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed worldwide in 2018, making it the fourth most common cancer in women after breast, colon and lung cancer.

Cervical cancer is ranked as the most frequent cancer in women in India. India has a population of approximately 365.71 million women above 15 years of age, who are at risk of developing cervical cancer.


The number of cases of cervical cancer reported in nations’ with low or medium income comprises of two-thirds of all the cases. Each year, more than 310,000 women die from cervical cancer. The vast majority of deaths are in poorer countries where rates of immunization against HPV are low. In wealthy countries, some anti-vaccine campaigners persuade parents to refuse the shot for their children, leaving them at risk.

 “Unfounded rumours about HPV vaccines continue to unnecessarily delay or impede the scaling up of vaccination,” IARC’s director Elisabete Weiderpass said in a statement. She added that the IARC is committed to fighting cervical cancer and confirmed the efficacy and safety of HPV shots.

 “Despite the enormity of the problem, our findings suggest that global elimination is within reach,” said Karen Canfell, lead author of the study. However, achieving this goal depends on high coverage of HPV vaccination and cervical screening.

The study claims the elimination of the disease and has projections presuming the vaccination of 80 per cent of girls aged 12 to 15 and that at least 70 per cent of women undergo screening twice during their lifetime. The Lancet Journal reported that without screening and HPV vaccination, more than 44 million women will likely be diagnosed with the disease over the next 50 years.

Clinical trials have shown that HPV vaccines are safe and effective against the two HPV strains, type 16 and 18, responsible for 70 per cent of cervical cancer cases. Britain’s GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) makes an HPV vaccine called Cervarix, which targets two strains of the virus, costs $160-190 for a dose. Merck makes a rival shot, Gardasil, which targets four strains, costing upwards of $190 for a single dose.

Reducing the cost of the vaccines in poor countries will play a vital role in increasing access to them. Serum Institute of India is known for making vaccines at about $1.75 per dose.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) also urged greater support for HPV shots, saying it aimed to immunize 40 million girls in poorer countries against HPV by 2020. They added that it could avert the deaths of approximately 900,000 women.


Our assessment is that vaccinations given to girls to protect them against HPV is a critical health tool. Access to it should be scaled up as swiftly as possible, especially in poorer countries in order to eliminate the disease. We believe that the development of a generic drug at Serum Institute could reduce the price of the vaccination to a tenth of what it is currently being sold at.

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