HPV Vaccine May Reverse Cancerous Lesions

A small study found a new vaccine could treat the aftermath of HPV infection.

ByABC News
November 4, 2009, 11:43 AM

Nov. 5, 2009— -- A new vaccine may hold promise for millions of women who have the human papillomavirus and its accompanying often-painful lesions of precancerous tissue.

In a small study of 20 women, researchers found the HPV vaccine soothed symptoms and shrank or completely removed lesions in 79 percent of patients one year after treatment. Nearly half of the women showed no sign of the disease two years after the shots.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday, is one of several research attempts to curtail the HPV infection after it has already attacked the cervix or vulva.

For women who have undergone the existing treatment to remove the lesions -- by scalpel, by lasers, by freezing or removing lesions with what's known as a loop electrosurgical excision procedure -- the idea of a therapeutic vaccine is all too welcome.

"The stress was maddening, recovering from the surgery was worse than I ever could have imagined -- horrendous," Kathy Howe said of her 2006 diagnosis of precancerous lesions on her cervix caused by HPV.

Howe wrote about her cervical cancer ordeal on her blog, Kazoofus.com.

"It was a very long process, over a year and a half of tests, questions and not many clear answers as a result of all the tests," she said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that half of all men and women contract genital HPV infections during their lifetimes and about 10 percent of women with aggressive strains of HPV will develop long-term infections that put them at risk for cervical cancer.

In less than two years, Howe had four pap smears, two diagnostic procedures called coloscopies and two loop procedures, which entailed transmitting an electrical current through a wire loop to remove the precancerous tissues. By October 2007, doctors decided to remove her cervix.

That kind of trouble and cost is exactly what researchers are trying to avoid.