The nation’s 70 NCI-designated cancer centers issued a joint statement today calling for increased gender-neutral HPV vaccination and evidenced-based screening in hopes of eliminating cancers caused by the virus.
These efforts could prevent 12,000 cervical cancers and nearly 40,000 other HPV-related cancers — including oropharyngeal, anal, penile, vulvar and vaginal malignancies — in the United States each year.
“HPV vaccines are proven to be safe and effective for preventing infections of several cancer-causing, high-risk types of the virus that cause most cases of cervical precancer and cancer,” Ernest Hawk, MD, vice president and division head of cancer prevention and population sciences at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center — one of the NCI-designated cancer centers that signed the statement — told HemOnc Today. “They appear to also be effective in blocking the development of many other genital and anal precancers caused by HPV. We hope and anticipate that they will be similarly effective in reducing the occurrence of many HPV-related oropharyngeal and tonsillar cancers, although the data regarding their effectiveness against those cancers are still emerging.”
Despite the benefits of HPV vaccination, CDC estimates only 49.5% of girls and only 37.5% of boys aged 13 to 17 years completed the vaccination series in 2016.
In their statement, the NCI-designated cancer centers established a goal that more than 80% of boys and girls aged 13 to 15 years be vaccinated by 2020.
The centers also set the goal to screen 93% of age-eligible females for cervical cancer by 2020.
The cancer centers also encouraged:
- Young men and women up to age 26 years who were not previously vaccinated to complete the recommended HPV vaccine series;
- Health care providers to make clear and strong recommendations for HPV vaccination and cervical cancer screening; and
- The health care community to educate parents, guardians, community members and colleagues about the goal of eliminating cancers caused by HPV in the United States.
The nation’s NCI-designated cancer centers often collaborate in research and clinical care intended to improve patient outcomes, Hawk said. However, only rarely do they join forces to identify and prioritize specific shared objectives, he said.
They fact they are doing so highlight the importance and urgency of this effort, he said.
Clinicians should continue to provide strong and consistent encouragement to parents and patients regarding the importance of the HPV vaccine, Hawk added.
“We encourage all physicians to become educated regarding the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness, so they can serve as local advocates for HPV vaccination in their communities,” he said. “The opportunity to prevent cancer by simple and effective strategies of vaccination and screening should be of utmost priority.”
Several other groups — including American Cancer Society, American Association for Cancer Research, ASCO, Association of American Cancer Institutes, Prevent Cancer Foundation and American Society for Preventive Oncology — expressed their support for the statement issued by the NCI-designated cancer centers.
“Cervical and other HPV-related cancers are preventable,” Cosette Wheeler, PhD, regent’s professor at University of New Mexico and a member of the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center — an NCI-designated cancer center that signed the statement — said in a press release. “We have the unprecedented opportunity to impact the cancer burden in our country and improve people’s lives and health by working toward eradicating HPV-related cancers.”