Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) has joined with all the top cancer centers across the nation in issuing a statement urging for increased HPV vaccination for the prevention of cancer. Recognizing that insufficient vaccination is a public health threat, these leading institutions have called upon the nation's physicians, parents and young adults to take advantage of this rare opportunity to prevent many types of cancer.
In a consensus statement, the nation's cancer centers say, "HPV vaccination is our best defense in stopping HPV infection in our youth." The statement is available online.
"The collective voice of the nation's cancer centers sends a powerful message that this is a serious public health threat," says Candace Johnson, PhD, President and CEO of Roswell Park. "Most HPV-related cancers are preventable through the administration of safe and effective vaccines. This joint statement sends a strong message to the medical community encouraging health care providers to recommend this cancer-preventing vaccine to their patients and their families."
With 100 percent participation, all 69 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers joined this effort, which appropriately coincides with the launch of a national "moonshot" to cure cancer, a collaborative effort announced in President Barack Obama's State of the Union address and led by Vice President Joe Biden.
"This initiative is directly aligned with the desire of the President, Vice President and all Americans to work constructively together to eradicate cancer," says Ernest Hawk, MD, Vice President and division head for cancer prevention and population sciences at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. "This is one example of actions that can be taken today to make a very big difference in the future cancer burden."
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. HPV vaccines are available that can prevent the majority of cervical, anal, and other genital cancers caused by the virus.
In Fall 2014, Roswell Park was awarded a one-year, $150,000 grant from the NCI as part of an effort to increase the number of adolescents - both boys and girls - receiving the HPV vaccine.
"Roswell Park is a key player in both local and national efforts to vaccinate more adolescents against HPV infections. With this NCI consensus statement, we have a real opportunity to prevent thousands of cases of cancer in this country," notes Martin Mahoney, MD, PhD, a Professor of Oncology at Roswell Park who led that NCI-funded project.
Dr. Mahoney, who is also a primary-care physician and researcher, joined experts from the NCI, CDC, American Cancer Society and NCI-designated cancer centers to discuss strategies for overcoming these barriers at a summit last November. During this summit, cancer centers shared findings from 18 NCI-funded environmental scans, or detailed regional assessments, that sought to identify barriers to increasing immunization rates in pediatric settings across the country. The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation recently awarded additional funding to Dr. Mahoney and his team to extend their work promoting HPV vaccination of adolescents.
The published call to action was a major recommendation resulting from discussions at that summit, with the goal of sending a powerful message to parents, adolescents and health care providers about the importance of HPV vaccination for cancer prevention.
Currently, vaccination rates remain low across the U.S., with under 40 percent of girls and just over 21 percent of boys receiving the recommended three doses. Rates in New York state are comparable to national figures. Research shows that there are a number of barriers to overcome to improve vaccination rates, including a lack of strong recommendations from physicians and parents not understanding that this vaccine protects against several types of cancer.