An application made to the FDA advisory committee by Merck & Co.’s to expand the use of its vaccine Gardasil for the prevention of anal cancer in young men and women has been approved. This drug is already approved as being an effective vaccine against genital warts and cervical cancer.
A vaccine for anal cancer is an important consideration, though this is a rare form of cancer. Though only about 5000 cases are reported per year in the United States, over the past 30% years, this cancer has seen a growth of about 2% a year. Also the rate of death resulting from this disease is rising, according to the Joel Palefsky, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who made a pitch on behalf of the pharma company.
According to Palefsky anal cancer and cervical cancer have the same causes, so if the vaccine works to prevent one, then it can work to prevent the other as well.
The rate of anal cancer is highest in the demographic of men who have sex with men; however in terms of absolute numbers, more women have the disease than men – up to 60% of all of those who get the disease are female.