• Women who were vaccinated against human papillomavirus in their teens with Cervarix have up to an 87% lower risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • Cervarix protects against two HPV types that are responsible for roughly 70% to 80% of all cervical cancers.
  • The findings were presented by Cancer Research UK and looked at data from January 2006 to June 2019.

Young women who were vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) in their teens with an older GlaxoSmithKline product called Cervarix had up to an 87% lower risk of developing cervical cancer linked to the virus, a long-running English study found.

When the vaccinated women were in their 20s, those who had received the series of shots between ages 12 and 13 had cervical cancer rates that were 87% lower than unvaccinated women who had been screened for the malignancy.

The cancer rate was 62% lower when the shots were given between ages 14 and 16 and reduced by 34% in women vaccinated between ages 16 and 18, researchers reported in The Lancet medical journal.

Rates of a precancerous condition were reduced by 97% when the shots were given at ages 12 and 13, the study also found.

The findings "should greatly reassure those still hesitant about the benefits of HPV vaccination," the researchers said.

The study, funded by Cancer Research UK, looked at registry data from January 2006 to June 2019 on women who had been screened for cervical cancer between ages 20 and 64, including women who received the Cervarix vaccine after it became available in 2008.

During the nearly 13-year period, roughly 28,000 diagnoses of cervical cancer and 300,000 diagnoses of a precancerous condition called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN3) were recorded in England, data showed.

The young women who were vaccinated had around 450 fewer cases of cervical cancers and 17,200 fewer cases of CIN3 than expected in unvaccinated women of the same age.

a chart showing cervical cancer rates among the vaccinated and non vaccinated
Cumulative Incidence of Invasive Cervical Cancer According to HPV Vaccination Status.
Image: HPV Vaccination and the Risk of Invasive Cervical Cancer, Lei et al. 2020

"We hope that these new results encourage uptake as the success of the vaccination programme relies not only on the efficacy of the vaccine but also the proportion of the population vaccinated," said coauthor Kate Soldan of the UK Health Security Agency.

Cervarix, developed by GSK, protects against two HPV types that are responsible for roughly 70% to 80% of all cervical cancers.

Since September 2012, Merck & Co's quadrivalent vaccine Gardasil, which protects against four HPV types linked to cervical and head and neck cancers, has been used in England instead of Cervarix.

Health and healthcare

How is the World Economic Forum bringing data-driven healthcare to life?

The application of “precision medicine” to save and improve lives relies on good-quality, easily-accessible data on everything from our DNA to lifestyle and environmental factors. The opposite to a one-size-fits-all healthcare system, it has vast, untapped potential to transform the treatment and prediction of rare diseases—and disease in general.

But there is no global governance framework for such data and no common data portal. This is a problem that contributes to the premature deaths of hundreds of millions of rare-disease patients worldwide.

The World Economic Forum’s Breaking Barriers to Health Data Governance initiative is focused on creating, testing and growing a framework to support effective and responsible access – across borders – to sensitive health data for the treatment and diagnosis of rare diseases.

The data will be shared via a “federated data system”: a decentralized approach that allows different institutions to access each other’s data without that data ever leaving the organization it originated from. This is done via an application programming interface and strikes a balance between simply pooling data (posing security concerns) and limiting access completely.

The project is a collaboration between entities in the UK (Genomics England), Australia (Australian Genomics Health Alliance), Canada (Genomics4RD), and the US (Intermountain Healthcare).

GSK also stopped selling Cervarix in the United States due low demand with Gardasil dominating the world's most lucrative market.

Cervical cancer is rare in young women. Follow-up as women grow older is needed to fully assess the vaccines' impact.