Merck announced today that they have received an endorsement by the FDA’s outside advisory panel. The endorsement is for a new drug that can partially vaccinate against the virus that causes Cervical Cancer. This is remarkable news. It’s both a small step, and a very large one.
Controlling any kind of cancer is leap forward. Even though this vaccine is very specific in what it can prevent, it is still a beacon of hope for millions. As generations of young girls start to receive this vaccine, the incidence of HPV 16 and 18 will begin to drop. The base risk of contracting HPV will eventually be reduced to the point of extinction. And that’s forever, baby.
It’s a small step because, in a sense, we’ve been fighting this battle for eons. Bacteria is (relatively) easy to kill. Squirt something on it, cook it, there are a million ways to skin those little devils. Viruses on the other hand, use our own bodies against us. The body’s only defense is to carpet bomb the area, killing good cells as well as bad, until things get back to normal. Viruses mimic our own cells’ instructions so convincingly that we will happily consume ourselves to accommodate the virus. Merck’s claim that another virus is controllable is indeed good news. I hope that we can all look forward to increasing good news about disease prevention.