HPV researcher calls for vaccination of males

Discussion of the benefits of vaccination against the human papilloma virus (HPV) almost always centers around women, especially young women, who are at greater risk of developing cervical cancer. Speaking at an event in Canada late last month, the Nobel Prize winning pioneer of HPV research, Dr. Harald sur Hausen, called for the vaccination of men. As in women, the more dangerous strains of the virus, HPV-16 and HPV-18, can contribute to the development of anal and penile cancer.

Studies by the CDC indicate that homosexual men are at an even higher risk than heterosexual men; gay and bisexual men may be up to 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer.

The HPV vaccine Gardasil is not yet approved for men, but the manufacturer, Merck, is currently conducting clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of Gardasil in males. Merck spokeswoman Sheila Murphy says she is hopeful that preliminary data for the study will be available soon. "There is going to be a [peer reviewed] meeting in Europe in November, and I was hoping there would be some data presented there, and I still haven't heard whether that is going to be the case or not," Murphy tells Canada's Xtra.

But, Murphy said, it may be another two years before there is a vaccine for men on the market. Although some countries have allowed boys to be given Gardasil based on initial studies, others, such as Canada, have asked for efficacy studies. "In Canada... they want us to do the efficacy studies, to show in fact that the vaccine, not only does it cause an immune response recognition, but it actually prevents a disease," she said.

- check out Xtra article for more