After struggling to persuade parents to vaccinate teenage girls against human papillomavirus, health experts expected a frosty reception when labeling was expanded to include boys. Yet early data shows Merck's Gardasil is off to a good start.
Nonprofit PATH has come under attack this week after a parliamentary committee accused it of subterfuge in a human papillomavirus vaccine project that gave GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix and Merck's Gardasil to girls in two Indian states.
The miss means Dendreon now expects to fail to achieve its modest goal of growing sales year-on-year.
The public health push to vaccinate both boys and girls against human papillomavirus has been hindered by a lack of studies showing that the jabs prevent forms of cancer other than cervical. Now data on throat cancer are emerging a week after an anal disease study.
Despite flunking a Phase III trial in December, Merck KGaA is still talking about its lung cancer vaccine. The company has decided to push on with another ongoing late-phase trial in Asia and is now weighing the options of starting a further study.
The lung cancer vaccine race has brought together an unusual mix of players. Merck KGaA was in a good position, but its vaccine disappointed in Phase III, while GlaxoSmithKline could report data on its candidate this year. Then there is the Cuba-Argentina joint venture.
At the cancer conference ASCO, researchers reported weak Phase III results for a telomerase peptide vaccine, GV1001, in pancreatic cancer patients. Most other cancer vaccines presented at the conference are at earlier stages of development.
Cancer vaccines have so far generated more headlines than health benefits. Even some of the success stories, like Dendreon, have faltered once faced with trying to commercialize an oncology immunotherapy. Yet the vast potential means people continue to talk up the sector.
Social issues have held back uptake of GlaxoSmithKline and Merck human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines in the U.S., but globally the problem is more fundamental--the shots cost too much. It is these low-income countries--where 85% of cervical cancer cases occur--that need the vaccines most though.
In a study trialed by the University of Pennsylvania, researchers have developed a vaccine using trial participants' own blood and tumor cells.