B2007: The First Cancer Vaccine

Wired

Cervical cancer is a very unique cancer in that in almost all the cases, it is caused by a virus, specifically the Human Papilloma Virus which is also a sexually transmitted disease that causes genital warts and cold sores. Certain forms of HPV can cause cells to mutate. Because of the unique structure of the cervix in that it constantly changes. HPV causes mutations in the cells of the cervix. These mutations ultimately lead to cervical cancer.

Fortunately with preventive screenings like Pap Smears, the abnormal cervical cells can be detected early and it’s true that the risk of developing advance stage cervical cancer is very low given the current measures to screen this cancer.

It is until recently that scientists have discovered how HPV causes mutations within the cells. It is because of this discovery that allowed scientists to create a vaccine that stops the HPV related protiens which cause the mutations.

While this is an important victory against cancer, you have to take note that this vaccine works only with a single variation of HPV (type 16 , the most common HPV) related cervical cancers. If you have cervical cancer due to a natural mutation, then this vaccine does not work. The vaccine also works if you take it before you get infected with HPV. If you have already been infected with HPV, the vaccine is useless because the virus will have already exerted its effects on the cells.

Nevertheless, it’s research like this that leads us one step forward to something better. Research that’s always best kept constantly funded to find that elusive holy grail of cancer treatment.

This year Footsteps in the Mirror will be blogging to raise money for the Association for International Cancer Research which is a non-profit organisation that helps fund cancer research throughout the world. If you’re willing to help, you can sign up on the Blogathon website and pledge your amount right here. Help make a difference, no matter how small it may be.

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