Some 20 percent of all adults become infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) type 16 virus.  Although most infections of this sexually transmitted disease are benign, persistent infections are associated with development of cervical and other anogenital cancers.  Cosette Wheeler, Ph.D., professor of molecular genetics and microbiology in the UNM School Medicine, was the lead principal investigator for UNM in a multi-center controlled trial of a vaccine against the HPV 16 virus.

Results of the study were published in the November 21, 2002 New England Journal of Medicine.  In the study, some 2,392 women between 16 and 23 received three doses of the vaccine or a placebo.  The women were followed for a median of 17.4 months after completing the vaccination regimen.  None of the women who received the vaccine went on to develop persistent HPV-16 infection.   All 41 cases of persistent HPV 16 infection including 9 cases of HPV 16-related cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (cervical pre-cancer) occurred among placebo recipients for a vaccine efficacy of 100%.

 "HPV infection causes virtually all invasive cervical cancer and its precursor lesions.  This is the first study demonstrating the prevention of persistent HPV infection by vaccination.  Further study is needed to determine the longer term efficacy," said Wheeler. 

Worldwide, about 50 percent of all cervical cancers develop from persistent infections caused by the HPV-16 virus.  HPV-18 causes another 10-20 percent of cancers.  The group is continuing to test vaccines against HPV 16 and other common types of HPV viruses in phase III studies.  Women between the ages of 16 and 23 who are interested in participating should call the UNM HOPE vaccine program at 277-4673 (277-HOPE).  Eligible participants receive gynecologic health care and contraception at no cost.  Parental consent is required for women under 18 years of age.


Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322