There is a push to expand the distribution of the Gardasil vaccine, manufactured by Merck & Company, to boys, as recent studies are linking the development of throat cancers to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Gardasil is currently marketed as a treatment for girls and young women for the prevention of cervical cancer, which also is caused by HPV. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus. Gardasil protects against four types of HPV, two of which are most often linked to the development of cervical cancer.
Some have already suggested boys ought to be included in Gardasil vaccinations, in order to limit the possibility of their spreading the virus to their partners when they become sexually active. The FDA has recently approved the use of Gardasil in boys, but only to prevent genital warts. HPV also has now been linked to the development of penile and anal cancer.
According to a recent story on Forbes. com, the link between HPV and throat cancer has only come about in the last few years, with researchers believing it may be linked to oral sex. According to the report, there are approximately 11,300 HPV-related throat cancers diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Throat cancer has traditionally been linked to smoking and drinking alcohol.
However, since Gardasil’s introduction in 2006 for the treatment of cervical cancer, there have been a number of troubling developments. The drug has been linked to a number of serious adverse events reported by young women shortly after receiving the vaccine, which is usually given in a series of three shots. Adverse events have been reported after receiving one or more of the shots. These side effects have included such serious problems as blood clots, seizures and auto-immune disorders. There also have been more than 50 reports of young women who have died shortly after receiving the Gardasil vaccine.
Even if there are no side effects, some physicians are questioning the benefit of the vaccine. About 90 percent of HPV infections are cleared naturally by the body, never developing into pre-cancerous lesions or cancer. For girls, regular Pap tests can usually detect any pre-cancerous lesions and treat them before they develop into cancer. And, generally all papilloma viruses are slow-moving, with any pre-cancerous lesions they cause developing over time, more easy to find and diagnose before they cause a problem.
Unfortunately, it is not as easy to detect such lesions in the throat, which some researchers argue is a positive in favor of the HPV vaccination. However, it also makes studies that would determine the effectiveness of a vaccine like Gardasil for the treatment of throat cancer much more difficult to determine. Without effective clinical trials with easy to measure results, it is unlikely the FDA would grant approval to the vaccine for this type of use.