The impact of anti HPV vaccination on cervical cancer incidence and HPV induced cervical lesions: consequences for clinical management.Eur J Gynaecol Oncol 2005; 26(2):129-42EJ
Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in women worldwide. Screening for cervical cancer is accomplished utilizing a Pap smear and pelvic exam. While this technology is widely available and has reduced cervical cancer incidence in industrialized nations, it is not readily available in third world countries in which cervical cancer incidence and mortality is high. Development of cervical cancer is associated with infection with high risk types of human papillomavirus (HPV) creating a unique opportunity to prevent or treat cervical cancer through anti-viral vaccination strategies. Several strategies have been examined in clinical trials for both the prevention of HPV infection and the treatment of pre-existing HPV-related disease. Clinical trials utilizing prophylactic vaccines containing virus-like particles (VLPs) indicate good vaccine efficacy and it is predicted that a prophylactic vaccine may be available within the next five years. But, preclinical research in this area continues in order to deal with issues such as cost of vaccination in underserved third world populations. A majority of clinical trials using therapeutic agents which aim to prevent the progression of pre-existing HPV associated lesions or cancers have shown limited efficacy in eradicating established tumors in humans possibly due to examining patients with more advanced-stage cancer who tend to have decreased immune function. Future trends in clinical trials with therapeutic agents will examine patients with early stage cancers or pre-invasive lesions in order to prevent invasive cervical cancer. Meanwhile, preclinical studies in this field continue and include the further exploration of peptide or protein vaccination, and the delivery of HPV antigens in DNA-based vaccines or in viral vectors. Given that cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus, the prospect of therapeutic vaccination to treat existing lesions and prophylactic vaccination to prevent persistent infection with the virus are high and may be implemented in the near future. The consequences for clinical management may include a significant reduction in the frequency of Pap smear screening in the case of prophylactic vaccines, and the availability of less invasive and disfiguring treatment options for women with pre-existing HPV associated lesions in the case of therapeutic vaccines. Implementation of both prophylactic and therapeutic vaccine regimens could result in a significant reduction of health care costs and reduction of worldwide cervical cancer incidence.