New data released yesterday says that a new vaccine that promises to protect against cervical cancer could offer wider resistance to the disease than previously thought.
The vaccine, Cervarix, produced by drug company GlaxoSmithKline appears to be effective against the viruses which cause 82% of cervical cancer cases. In a trial among 700 women, Cervarix was shown to be effective in blocking two of the most common strains of the papilloma virus, responsible for about 70% of such cancer cases, and data presented to a conference in Vancouver yesterday, shows the treatment in fact works against five HPV strains, raising the drug's effectiveness by a further 12%.
Glaxo scientists presenting the data emphasise that the new data was just "preliminary evidence", and that more clinical work was required.
Glaxo's chief executive Jean-Pierre Garnier, is reported as saying that Cervarix is a potential 'jewel' in its pipeline of new products, indicating it could become one of the world's best-selling drugs. Some analysts believe the drug could be worth £2bn or more to Glaxo annually.
The vaccine will be subjected to late-stage trials, and Glaxo hopes to file the treatment with regulators next year.
The race is on between Glaxo and rival company Merck which is developing a similar vaccine, Gardisil, and which it hopes to file for regulatory approval in the autumn.
Glaxo's vaccine business was given an extra boost with the $300m (£160m) acquisition of Corixa, an American specialist in vaccine technology. The company has already been using the firm's expertise, which increases a vaccine's effectiveness and durability and believes Corixa's technology will give it an edge in its competition with Merck to provide the first effective cancer vaccine.