8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, November 2, 2004
WASHINGTON (AP) - Efforts to develop the
world's first vaccine to prevent cervical cancer took
a key step forward yesterday with test results sug-
gesting that it can provide long-lasting protection.
Four years after getting the vaccine, 94 percent
of women were protected from infection with the
virus that causes most cervical cancers and none
had developed worrisome precancerous condi-
tions, a study showed.
"We're thrilled about these results. The immune
responses seem to be really long-lasting," said
Eliav Barr, who leads development of the vac-
cine for Merck & Co. The company plans to seek
U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval next
year for an expanded version of the vaccine that
also could be used to prevent genital warts in both
women and men.
The new study was funded by Merck and led
by University of Washington researchers who pre-
sented results yesterday at a meeting of the Ameri-
can Society for Microbiology.
"They showed clear effectiveness," said Scott
Hammer, a Columbia University infectious dis-
ease expert who reviewed the work but has no ties
to Merck or the study. "This is a very important
issue for women's health around the world."
If the vaccine makes it to market, it would be the
second developed to prevent cancer. The hepatitis
B vaccine has dramatically reduced the number of
infections that progress to liver cancer.
Cervical cancer strikes nearly half a million
women worldwide each year and kills about half.
In the United States, about 15,000 women get it
and about 5,000 die.
Virtually all cases are caused by infection with
human papilloma virus, or HPV, which is spread
through sex. One strain, HPV-16, accounts for
about half of all cervical cancers.
A previous study showed that HPV-16
infections were completely prevented in 768
women who had received the Merck vaccine
18 months earlier. None developed precancer-
ous conditions either.
The new study followed 755 of these women for
four years after vaccination. HPV-16 infections
had taken hold in seven; none developed precan-
cers. In a comparison group of 750 women who
received dummy shots, infections took hold in 111
and precancers formed in 12.
Even though protection had waned for a small
number of women in the study, the vaccine's effec-
tiveness was still very high, said Douglas Lowy,
a National Cancer Institute scientist who invented
the vaccine. The government gave rights to devel-
op it to two companies - Merck and GlaxoSmith-
Kline - and Merck's work is a little farther along,
"Revaccination might be advisable at some
point," but it will take more study to know whether
that is necessary or would improve effectiveness,
Women in the study were ages 16 to 23 when
they received the vaccine, given in three doses
over six months.
"Most people think it would be recommended
for young adolescents. The idea would be you
would immunize people relatively soon before
they become sexually active," because the germ is
spread through sex, Lowy said.
Meanwhile, Merck is in the final stages of test-
ing an expanded vaccine. Besides HPV-16, it con-
tains strain 18, which causes another 10 percent to
20 percent of cervical cancers, as well as strains
that cause genital warts in men and women, and
penile and anal cancers in men.
About 25,000 women and men have been
enrolled in that study in 34 countries, and results
are expected next year, Barr said.
Giving the vaccine to men would not only
prevent disease in them but also would prevent
infections in their partners, said Steven Projan,
a drug development expert with Wyeth who
helped review research for the microbiology
meeting. The vaccine also might prevent women
already infected with HPV from developing
cancer, he said.
Court won't hear Kevorkian appeal
DETROIT (AP) - An attorney for assist-
ed suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian said his
client will keep fighting for his release from
prison despite the U.S. Supreme Court's
decision yesterday not to hear his appeal.
The court, without comment, turned back
an appeal in which Kevorkian claimed he
had an ineffective attorney when he was
convicted in Michigan of second-degree
murder in the 1998 poisoning of Thomas
Youk. Youk had Lou Gehrig's disease, and
Kevorkian called it a mercy killing. The
death was videotaped and shown on nation-
Attorney Mayer Morganroth said the 76-
year-old Kevorkian will ask Gov. Jennifer
Granholm to commute his sentence and
release him on parole. Kevorkian asked Gra-
nholm to release him late last year, but she
refused because the state parole board ree-
ommended against it, Morganroth said.
Morganroth said he was surprised by the
Supreme Court's decision. He said the court
had signaled it wanted to address the issue
of assisted suicide for terminally ill patients
who have unstoppable pain.
"I think it's sad. That's all I can say," Mor-
Morganroth spoke to Kevorkian yesterday
and said he also was disappointed.
"Certainly, he was hoping that the Supreme
Court would address this issue," he said.
Morganroth said Kevorkian is in poor
health, suffering from heart trouble, hepatitis
C, high blood pressure and double hernias.
Morganroth asked an Oakland County judge
to release Kevorkian in 2003 because of his
health problems, but the judge refused.
Kevorkian appealed to the Supreme Court
after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
refused to hear his appeal in June, saying it
lacked merit. The appeals court sided with a
federal judge who refused to grant Kevork-
ian a new trial last November.
It was the second time the Supreme Court
has turned back an appeal from Kevorkian:
Two years ago, the court refused to consider
his claim that his prosecution was unconsti-
Kevorkian has said he assisted in at least
130 deaths, but has promised in affidavits
that he will not assist in a suicide if he is
released from prison. Michigan banned
assisted suicide in 1998.
Businessman defends hurling record with pumpkin gun
HOWELL (AP) - A Michigan business-
man is preparing to defend the title he won by
building a gun that fired a pumpkin 4,594 feet
through the air.
Bruce Bradford, 57, is tight-lipped about the
specifics of his entry in the World Champion-
ship Punkin Chunkin.
Since 1986, the event has been held on a
farm in Delaware's Sussex County.
The event begins Friday and is expected to
draw 100 contestants and 40,000 spectators.
"It's classified," Bradford, owner of S&G
Steel Erectors in Howell, told the Detroit Free
Press. "All the guys at Punkin Chunkin are
great guys, but when it comes to shooting,
things get serious.
"This year, everyone will be gunning for
me. They're not too happy that the trophy's left
Delaware two years in a row now. Can't say I
Bradford became interested in the sport in
1998 when he read an article about Punkin
Chunkin and decided to fly to Delaware to
watch the competition.
A steel fabricator and member of the
National Rifle Association, Bradford said he
wanted to get a closer look at the machines,
but security would not let him into the pits.
Pretending to be a reporter, he was allowed
"We drank beer, saw the machines, shucked
oysters. It was one big tailgate party. When
we got back, we decided to build one," Bran-
The gun, made of aluminum, weighs 18,000
pounds, and its barrel extends 100 feet, sport-
ing a 210-millimeter bore.
With its matte black paint, Second Amend-
ment looks menacing, an impression confirmed
by the bright yellow lettering that reads: "Bad-
dent Punkin Gun on the Planet."
In 1999, Bradford entered Second Amend-
ment into competition and finished fifth, with
a shot of 3,059 feet. He made improvements
yearly, and in 2002 he was victorious with a
ride of 3,882 feet.
This year, though, his confidence is waning.
On Sunday, Bradford and his eight-man
team tinkered at a friend's Howell farm, mak-
ing final adjustments and taking a last round
of practice shots..
They then planned to dismantle it and head
The team is nervous because this year,
Delaware is requiring all competing machines
to have certification by the American Asso-
ciation of Mechanical Engineers. That meant
Bradford had to install new tanks on Second
"We're a little apprehensive that there are
some unknowns, and we don't have the gun
firing the way we want it to," he said. "Plus,
punkins are strange animals. They're like
snowflakes - they're all different."
Notice that Bradford said "punkin," not
Those in the sport call the 8- to 10- pound
gourds they chuck punkins, not pumpkins. As
they will quickly explain, "pumpkins are for
carving, punkins are for chunkin."
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