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The UK is a step nearer to the introduction of a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, after the release of successful phase III trial results.

Sanofi Pasteur MSD and Merck, who are jointly developing the vaccine, said they would be applying for a UK licence by the end of the year.

Researchers found the vaccine, called Gardasil, prevented 100 per cent of high-grade cervical pre-cancers and non-invasive cancers associated with

human papillomavirus (HPV) types 16 and 18.

The study, presented this week at the Infectious Diseases Society of America annual meeting in San Francisco, found no cases two years after vaccination in the vaccine group but 21 in the control group.

Dr Anne Szarewski, clinical consultant for Cancer Research UK, who has been involved with the development of the vaccine, said a universal HPV vaccination programme would happen in the UK ‘eventually'. But she warned: ‘It's not automatic. Even if the vaccine is licensed it doesn't mean it will be available on the NHS.'

Researchers randomised 12,167 women aged 16-26, who were not infected with HPV, to the vaccine or placebo at day one, month two and month six.

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