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The HPV vaccine has been amazingly successful in reducing cases of cervical cancer. Researchers in the UK recently  reported that there are 87% fewer cervical cancers among women who were part of the first mass vaccination program against human papillomavirus (HPV), compared to women of previous generations. A vaccine success story!

Initially the vaccine Cervarix was administered in the HPV vaccination program, which started in 2008 in England. The Cervarix vaccine is effective against HPV 16 and 18, the strains which are responsible for 70% to 80% of all cervical cancers. In 2012 they switched to the HPV vaccine Gardasil, which is effective against two additional HPV types - HPV 6 and 11.

Researchers looked at the incidence of both cervical cancer and noninvasive cervical carcinoma (grade 3 cervical intraepithelial neoplasia or CIN3, which frequently progresses to cancer) in England between January 2006 and June 2019.

They found that girls who received the vaccine between 12 to 13 years of age had a cervical  cancer rate 87% lower than expected in a nonvaccinated population, and the rate of noninvasive cervical carcinoma (CIN3) was 97% lower than expected. Those who were vaccinated between the ages of 14 and 16 years had a 62% reduction in cervical cancer and 75% for CIN3. Those vaccinated between the ages of 16 and 18 years had a 34% reduction in cervical cancer and 39% in CIN3.

The authors point out that this is still a developing story - that since the women are still relatively young, we don't know the full impact of the HPV vaccination on cervical cancer rates. But they expect it to be impressive over time.

Excerpts from Medscape: Success of HPV Vaccination: 'Dramatic' Reduction in Cervical Cancer

New data from England show the success of the national program for vaccinating girls against human papillomavirus (HPV) to prevent cervical cancer.  ...continue reading "HPV Vaccine Success Story"

The possibility of a vaccine for helping the body fight cancer just got one step closer. A vaccine that targets a specific type of usually incurable brain cancer called "diffuse glioma" has had very good results in a trial of the vaccine. This is great news for a brain cancer that, even with treatment, keeps spreading throughout the brain, and only has a general 5-year survival rate of 48.9%.

The most important findings of the vaccine trial: the 3 year survival rate after being fully vaccinated was 84%, and in this group of 30 patients - 63% did not have any progression in tumor growth. And 82% of one subgroup of patients whose immune system showed a specific response to the vaccines had no tumor progression within the 3 year study period. This is amazing news for a cancer that typically has such a bleak prognosis.

brain cancer, diffuse glioma
Diffuse glioma in the brain. Credit: NCI

In a follow-up to this trial the researchers are combining the vaccine with checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy (which give the immune system a boost), and which they think (are hoping) may produce even better results. Think of it this way - these treatments have the potential for you (your body's immune system) to effectively fight a cancer. The future is looking bright!

From Medical Xpress: First-ever vaccine for malignant brain tumors reported safe, effective in early trial

Tumor vaccines can help the body fight cancer. Mutations in the tumor genome often lead to protein changes that are typical of cancer. A vaccine can alert the patient's immune system to these mutated proteins. For the first time, physicians and cancer researchers from Heidelberg and Mannheim have now carried out a clinical trial to test a mutation-specific vaccine against malignant brain tumors. The vaccine proved to be safe and triggered the desired immune response in the tumor tissue, as the team now reports in the journal Nature.  ...continue reading "Encouraging Results For A Vaccine Targeting Brain Tumors"

There is much debate over whether pregnant women should get a COVID-19 vaccine. This is because studies of pregnant women receiving vaccinations have not been done, and so risks and possible harms (if any) are unknown. But what is known is that pregnant women are at higher risk for pregnancy complications if they get COVID-19 (e.g. increased risk of preterm labor and stillbirth).

Pregnant women getting the vaccine are essentially part of an experiment looking at the vaccine's safety for both the pregnancy and the developing baby. But finally a case study (one woman!) has been published.

The good news is that results look promising. Antibodies from the vaccinated mother crossed the placenta and reached the baby. The pregnant woman had received the Moderna vaccine at 36 weeks, she delivered the healthy baby at 39 weeks, and antibodies against the virus were found in the umbilical cord blood - which meant they had been transferred from the mother to the baby.

A related study (see below) also gives hope that it may be beneficial for pregnant women to get vaccinated - at least 17 days before the birth so that antibodies can build up.

Excerpts from The Scientist: COVID-19 Vaccines for Pregnant Moms May Protect Newborns

Pregnant women with COVID-19 are at an increased risk for severe illness and death compared to people with COVID-19 who are not pregnant, and they experience preterm birth and pregnancy loss more frequently than do expecting moms who don’t catch the virus. In spite of these risks, there is no clear guidance available yet for vaccinating pregnant women against COVID-19. But there is now some evidence that immunization could protect their newborns. For the first time, doctors report that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies from a vaccinated mother can cross the placenta, pointing to a likely benefit for her fetus.  ...continue reading "Pregnant Women and COVID-19 Vaccines"