In response to low national vaccination rates for the human papillomavirus (HPV), Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health has joined 68 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers in issuing a statement urging for increased HPV vaccination. With approximately 40 percent of girls and 21 percent of boys receiving the recommended three doses, these institutions recognize insufficient vaccination as a public health threat and call upon the nations’ physicians, parents and young adults to take advantage of this rare opportunity to prevent many types of cancer.
“Vaccinations have long been part of the prevention tools used to help reduce the risk of disease or even eradicate some conditions, such as polio,” said Scott Lippman, MD, director of Moores Cancer Center and member of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Cancer Prevention Committee. “HPV is the cause of a major global cancer burden. The vaccine could save thousands of lives in the United States alone and reduce needless suffering that could easily be prevented by taking action today.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV infections are responsible for approximately 27,000 new cancer diagnoses each year in the United States. Several vaccines are available that can prevent the majority of cervical, anal, and other genital cancers as well as oropharyngeal (middle throat) cancer.
Research shows there are a number of barriers to improving vaccination rates, including a lack of strong recommendations from physicians and parents not understanding that this vaccine protects against several types of cancer.
To discuss strategies for overcoming these barriers, experts from the NCI, CDC, American Cancer Society and more than half of the NCI-designated cancer centers met in a summit in November. The cancer centers shared findings from 18 NCI-funded environmental scans – detailed regional assessments that identify hurdles to increasing immunization rates in pediatric settings across the country.
The published call-to-action was a major recommendation and result of the summit, with the goal of sending a message to parents, adolescents and health care providers about the importance of HPV vaccination for cancer prevention.
The recent pace of cancer prevention research and translation has seen significant advances in next-generation sequencing, liquid biopsy technology, big data analytics and immune oncology. The HPV vaccine is among those breakthroughs highlighted in a recent AACR special report, co-authored by Lippman and other leading cancer researchers, including Elizabeth Blackburn, former president of AACR and new president of Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The report found that most cancers are preventable.