GlaxoSmithKline’s cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix has been shown to offer protection against the five most common cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV), according to the results of a large-scale study published in The Lancet today.

Final analysis of the Phase III, multi-centre, double-blind, randomised trial - involving 18,644 women - revealed that the vaccine not only offers protection against cervical pre-cancers caused by HPV 16 and 18, which are responsible for around 70% of the total number, but also against HPV 31, 33 and 45, the next most common cancer-causing types of the virus.

According to GSK, the study showed for the first time for any cervical cancer vaccine that Cervarix provides “significant cross-protection” against pre-cancerous lesions not containing HPV types 16 and/or 18 which, it claims, could translate into around 11%-16% extra protection against the disease.

This benefit could give the vaccine a competitive edge of Merck’s rival vaccine Gardasil, which offers protection against HPV 16, 18, 6 and 11, the latter two of which also cause genital warts. Gardasil pulled in revenues of $1.4 billion last year while sales of GSK’s vaccine, which is not yet approved in the USA, reached just $177 million, so Cervarix still has a lot of ground to make if it wants to catch up with the market leader.

Commenting on the findings, Thomas Breuer, Head of Global Clinical R&D and Chief Medical Officer of GSK Biologicals, said it is “really good news for primary prevention of cervical cancer as it indicates the vaccine could offer women additional protection against cervical cancer beyond what had at first been anticipated,” while lead author Professor Jorma Paavonen, from the University of Helsinki, Finland and principal investigator on the study, added that the results “re-affirm confidence in vaccination as a primary preventative measure against cervical cancer when used alongside screening”.

Cevarix is currently approved in 97 countries around the world, including the 27 member states of the European Union, Australia, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico and Taiwan, and is currently being reviewed by regulatory authorities in 20 nations, including the US and Japan.