Big Pharma Wants Males to Take Vaccine for Penile Cancer

(BLOOMBERG)   About half of all cases of penile cancer are linked to a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer in women and might be prevented with vaccines from Merck & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline Plc, researchers said.

A review of 31 studies involving 1,466 men with penile cancer found thehuman papillomavirus was present 46.9 percent of the time, according to the report in the Journal of Clinical Pathology. About 26,300 men develop penile cancer each year. It accounts for less than 1 percent of cancers in European and North American men, and up to 10 percent of tumors in men from Africa and Asia, studies show.

Merck’s Gardasil and Glaxo’s Cervarix immunizations against the two most common strains of HPV may provide protection against the cancer, said researchers led by Silvia de Sanjose, from the cancer epidemiology research program at the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain. The two strains, HPV16 and HPV18, were responsible for about three of every four tumors tied to the virus, the researchers said.

“Although penile carcinoma is a rare disease, around 7,000 cases would be prevented annually by the eradication of HPV- 16/18,” the scientists wrote. The effectiveness of the HPV shot in men “is still under investigation, but evidence to date suggests safety and” the ability to stimulate a response from the immune system, they said.

The review was funded through Spanish public grants. De Sanjose has received research grants from Merck, its partner Sanofi-Aventis SA and Glaxo. The companies had no role in preparing, analyzing or interpreting the research, the authors of the review said.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is slated to review Cervarix, from London-based Glaxo, for girls and Gardasil from Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck, for boys at a meeting next month. Gardasil, also sold by Paris- based Sanofi, was approved for girls in 2006 and also targets two strains of the virus that cause genital warts.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle Fay Cortez in London

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