A groundbreaking, Australian-developed cervical cancer vaccine administered to high school students for a decade is set to be replaced, after the development of a new treatment that could all but wipe out both the cancer and genital warts.
The drug known as Gardasil has been administered to Australian teenagers since 2007, protecting them from strains of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes 70 per cent of cervical cancers.
But the vaccine could soon be superseded.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has recommended that a new vaccine, known as Gardasil 9, be instead used in the school-age program.
A major global trial involving more than 14,000 participants found that the new vaccine could prevent 90 per cent of cervical cancers worldwide, compared with 70 per cent with the original.
"The eradication of cervical cancer is now firmly within of sights," said the study's lead Australian author, Professor Suzanne Garland.
"This new vaccine protects against the same type of the virus as the existing Gardasil, plus an additional five most common strains of HPV."
There are calls for Health Minister Greg Hunt to adopt the new drug for Australia's HPV vaccination program.
Professor Garland, director of the Royal Women's Hospital Centre for Infectious Diseases, said as only two doses were required for the new Gardasil, compared with three for the older vaccine, the change could be "cost effective".
The study published in The Lancet, and funded by the drug's manufacturer Merck, also found that the new vaccine could prevent about 90 per cent of genital warts, anal cancers and HPV-related vulvar and vaginal cancers.
It is understood the health department is negotiating a contact to introduce Gardasil 9, which has already received approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration, but is not yet available in Australia.
"This is an incredibly exciting development and I congratulate all the researchers involved," Mr Hunt said.
"The vaccine is currently being considered for the National Immunisation Program, and I'm hopeful it will be included in the near future."
Australia was the first country to introduce a free national HPV vaccination program, beginning first with girls in 2007 and expanding to boys in 2013.
Each year around 600,000 high school children (80 per cent of teenage girls and 70 per cent of boys) undergo HPV vaccinations.
Since the vaccination program was introduced, there has been a more than 90 per cent reduction in genital warts among Australian-born young women and heterosexual young men.
Professor Garland said she would not recommend that taxpayers foot the bill to revaccinate those who were given the older Gardasil with the new vaccine, though if an "individual wants to do it, it's safe to do."
The vaccine is approved for use in females aged nine to 45 and males aged nine to 26.
The story New, improved Gardasil 9 fights 90% of cervical cancers first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.