UK drug giant GlaxoSmithKline says that Cervarix, its experimental cervical cancer vaccine which targets the two Human Papillomavirus types responsible for 70% of all cases, induces twice the immune response in girls aged 10 to 14 than in 15 to 24 year olds, according to media reports.

Data from late-stage trials, presented at an infectious diseases conference this weekend in Washington, suggest that Cervarix could provide more durable and efficient protection when given to young girls well before they become sexually active, thereby reducing the need for booster jabs. This could ultimately play an important part of the overall strategy for preventing cervical cancer.

And this is very good news for GSK indeed, as the vaccine’s closest rival, troubled US drugmaker Merck & Co’s Gardasil, has just been filed with US and European regulators, strongly indicating that it will be the one to win the race to market.

Cervical cancer kills 274,000 women worldwide every year, including 33,000 in Europe. If treated early five-year survival rates can be as high as 80%-90%, but they plummet to 14% if the cancer remains untreated and spreads, and so the potential market for an effective vaccine is vast.