HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer cases in deprived groups

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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • What is Cervical cancer?
  • Key highlights of the study

Why in News?

  • The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is reducing cases of cervical cancer. This reduction is happening across all socio-economic groups. Most cases are being prevented in more deprived groups. This information comes from a major study funded by Cancer Research UK.
  • The researchers at the Queen Mary University of London carried out the longest follow-up on the effectiveness of the HPV vaccination programme in England.

What is Cervical cancer?

  • About:
    • Almost all cervical cancer cases are linked to certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that is transmitted through sexual contact.
    • The body’s immune system usually gets rid of the HPV infection naturally within two years.
    • However, in a small percentage of people the virus can linger over time and turn some normal cells into abnormal cells and then cancer.
    • It is preventable as long as it is detected early and managed effectively.
  • Prevalence in India
    • Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer type and the second leading cause of cancer death in women of reproductive age (15-44) worldwide.
    • According to the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC-WHO), India accounts for approximately one-fifth of the global burden.
    • India witnesses 1.23 lakh cases and approximately 67,000 deaths each year (one woman every eight minutes).
  • Prevention
    • Cervical cancer screening and vaccination are two effective preventive measures.
    • There is still little awareness among women about this cancer prevention, and less than 10% of Indian women are screened.
    • All women aged 30-49, regardless of symptoms, should be screened for cervical cancer and their adolescent daughters vaccinated against HPV.
  • Vaccines available in India
    • CERVAVAC is India’s first indigenously developed vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. It has been developed by Serum Institute of India (SII).
      • It is a quadrivalent vaccine, meaning it is effective against at least four variants of cancer-causing Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).
      • It is based on VLP (virus-like particles), similar to the hepatitis B vaccine, and provides protection by generating antibodies against the HPV protein.
        • VLP approach stimulates an immune response from the body resulting in production of antibodies.
    • Besides CERVAVAC, two vaccines licensed globally are available in India;
      • a quadrivalent vaccine (Gardasil, marketed by Merck) and
      • a bivalent vaccine (Cervarix, marketed by Glaxo Smith Kline).
        • These vaccines are costly and hence are unaffordable for the vast majority of Indians.
  • Vaccine to be part of the universal immunisation programme
    • An affordable and indigenously developed HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine to prevent cervical cancer is now ready.
    • It will likely be included by the Union government in its universal immunisation programme.

Key highlights of the study

  • More cases were prevented in the most deprived group
    • As per the study, the HPV vaccine is cutting cases of cervical cancer right across the socio-economic spectrum, with most cases being prevented in more deprived group.
      • Due to a typically higher incidence of cervical cancer in more deprived groups, researchers found that more cases were prevented in the most deprived group, compared to the least deprived group.
  • Huge success of the school-based vaccination programme
    • The study reflected the huge success of the school-based vaccination programme, showing that well-executed public health interventions can help to reduce health inequalities.
  • HPV vaccination works
    • Researchers found that over 12 years, the HPV vaccine reduced cervical cancer rates by nearly 90%.
    • It also reduced pre-cancerous conditions by around 95%. This reduction was seen in women who received the vaccine at 12-13 years old in England.
      • The HPV vaccination programme was first introduced to England in 2008.
    • The study shows the vaccine is much more effective when given to children at 12-13 years old than later in life.

Q.1. What are Virus-like particles (VLPs)?

Virus-like particles (VLPs) are molecules that resemble viruses but lack infectivity because of the absence of viral genetic material. They are usually protein multimers with structured, repetitive, high-density display of epitopes and thereby able to elicit a strong T- and B-cell–mediated immune response.

Q.2. What is International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)?

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is an intergovernmental agency that is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). The IARC's mission is to research the causes of cancer, the mechanisms of carcinogenesis, and develop scientific strategies for cancer control.

Source: HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer cases in deprived groups: study