Hopes are raised over cervical cancer jab

A jab to prevent cervical cancer could extend more lives than previously thought, research has suggested.

The continuing school vaccination programme is helping protect young girls against sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes most cases of the disease.

The vaccination has long been known to guard against the two strains of HPV responsible for about 70 per cent of such cancers.

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Now, however, experts believe the immunisation could prevent between 73 and 77 per cent of cases and offer cross protection to other strains of HPV.

If true, the annual number of cases of cervical cancer across the UK could fall from almost 3,000 this year to fewer than 700.

With almost 1,000 women dying from the disease every year, more lives could also be lengthened.

The latest research, published in the British Journal of Cancer, was carried out by scientists at the Health Protection Agency (HPA), the University of Manchester and Manchester Royal Infirmary.

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HPA epidemiologist Kate Soldan said: "Because the vaccine is given to teenage girls and cervical cancer affects adult women, it will be some years before we see the actual impact of immunisation, but we do expect to start seeing these effects in coming years, as vaccinated girls become adults."

The study came as scientists in Edinburgh revealed they have identified a key trigger – gene C35 in patients with HER2-positive aggressive breast cancer.

Establishing this key mechanism could herald the developments of treatments.

This type of cancer – where the HER2 protein encourages the growth of cancer cells – is treated with the drug Herceptin, which attaches itself to the protein and stops cancer cells multiplying.

The Edinburgh University researchers hope their finding could lead to new ways of treating the cancer.