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Nobel Laureate Commends Scientific Develop and Approval of Cancer-Prevention Vaccine

PHILADELPHIA (June 8, 2006) — Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Gardasil® (Merck & Co., Inc), the second vaccine developed with the ability to prevent a human cancer. Gardasil can prevent the infection of two types of human papilloma virus (HPV), which account for about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases.

Worldwide, cervical cancer causes more than 200,000 deaths each year, making it the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women. In the U.S., 9,710 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and 3,700 women die of the disease.

The HPV vaccine is the second anti-cancer vaccine. The first such vaccine is the hepatitis B vaccine, developed in the Fox Chase Cancer Center laboratory of Baruch S. Blumberg, MD, PhD. Hepatitis B is responsible for many cases of primary liver cancer, one of the world's three most deadly cancers, and has an annual death toll of about 1.2 million people worldwide (up to 5,000 Americans) as a result of liver cancer or cirrhosis, according to the World Health Organization. Blumberg won the 1976 Nobel Prize for the discovery of the hepatitis B virus and was elected to the National Inventors Hall of Fame for the subsequent invention of the vaccine.

Blumberg commends the development and approval of the HPV vaccine and notes that it is an important milestone in the management of cervical cancer. He says the HPV vaccine is another piece of evidence that vaccines can be utilized to prevent human cancers associated with a virus.

"There are other cancers in which viruses are involved in the disease-causing process," Blumberg explained. "For many of these, prevention of infection could likely prevent the cancer. These include human T-cell leukemia in adults (Human T-cell leukemia virus, HTLV). Epstein-Barr virus is associated with a variety of cancers, including nasopharyngeal cancer and certain kinds of lymphoma such as Burkitt's lymphoma and Hodgkins disease Cancer of the stomach is associated with a bacterium, H. pylorii.

"There are probably other cancers, including common cancers, that are associated with viruses or other infectious agents," Blumberg pointed out. "A goal of preventive oncology programs, such as those at the Fox Chase Cancer Center, is to identify and understand these relations and provide appropriate vaccines."

Hepatitis B vaccine has been in widespread use for nearly 25 years and hundreds of millions of doses have been administered worldwide. Most countries have national vaccination programs and in many jurisdictions, including the United States, vaccination is compulsory.

The hepatitis B vaccine can prevent many of the potential cases of primary cancer of the liver, listed by the CDC as the fourth most common cancer in the world. In its website the CDC refers to the HBV vaccine as "the first cancer vaccine."

Cervical cancer treatment at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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