Local News

Researchers Working On Possible HPV Vaccine

Posted August 9, 2002 2:00 a.m. EDT

— Cervical cancer is one of the deadliest cancers in women. It is often caused by an infection that many women and men already have, but there is a new vaccine that could save lives.

Health experts said most women do not worry about the human papilloma virus (HPV).

"If you have sex even once, you're at a 50 percent risk or much higher," registered nurse Mitzi Willis said.

Experts estimate about 50 to 70 percent of women are infected with HPV. Only a small amount though go on to develop cancer. In those cases, the virus invades cells inside the cervix and modifies normal DNA. Over time, it develops into cancer. It can lie dormant for years then show up as an abnormal PAP test.

"We know that it can be present and undetectable for years and years," researcher Dr. William Nebel said.

Nebel and researchers at the Clinical Research Foundation are testing what could be the first HPV vaccine. Given in three injections, it appears to prevent infection. Right now, it is being tested across the state in healthy, young women.

Early studies are promising, but officials said it will be several years before they know if it works.

"The average time from an idea like this vaccine until it's on the market approved by the FDA is 13 years, so we're well on our way with this," Nebel said.

If approved, the vaccine would be used in women who do not have HPV infection. It would not help those who are already infected. For more information on this study, you can call

(866) HALT-HPV