The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this summer approved a vaccine to protect women against cervical cancer. The vaccine prevents infection by four strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV)‚ a sexually transmitted infection that is the most common cause of cervical cancer.
Levi Downs Jr., M.D., assistant professor in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology and a member of the University of Minnesota Cancer Center‚ was one of the principal investigators on the international study.
“There is nothing in my career as a physician that will be more important than this‚” Downs says.
HPV infection is linked to 10‚000 cases of cervical cancer every year in the United States and about 200‚000 cases worldwide‚ says Downs. Cervical cancer causes 3‚700 deaths each year in the United States alone.
The vaccine‚ approved for use in girls and women ages 9 to 26‚ is most effective when given to girls before they become sexually active and risk an HPV infection. It may not protect against cervical cancer in those who have already been infected with HPV‚ according to the FDA.