Recognizing a critical need to improve national vaccination rates against the human papillomavirus (HPV), Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Medical Center is again joining with each of the 69 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers in issuing a joint statement in support of recently revised recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Read the joint statement.
“HPV-related cancer remains a major threat—but one that is almost totally preventable,” says Benjamin G. Neel, MD, PhD, director of Perlmutter Cancer Center. “Yet, despite increased public education and advocacy efforts, vaccination rates against HPV remain unacceptably low.”
Dr. Neel points to a recent American Cancer Society report showing cancer death rates have declined substantially over the last 20 years and adds, “This is largely due to advances in research and clinical care. Now, we have to replicate this success on the public health front. We strongly call upon the nation’s physicians, parents, and young adults to take advantage of this rare opportunity to prevent many types of cancer by vaccinating against the HPV virus.”
According to the CDC, rates of HPV-associated cancers have continued to rise, with approximately 39,000 new HPV-associated cancers now diagnosed each year in the United States. Although HPV vaccines can prevent the majority of cervical, anal, mid-throat, and other genital cancers, national vaccination rates remain low, with just 41.9 percent of girls and 28.1 percent of boys completing the recommend vaccine series.
The new guidelines from the CDC recommend that children aged 11 to 12 receive two doses of the HPV vaccine at least six months apart, while adolescents and young adults older than 15 should continue to complete the 3-dose series.
Douglas A. Levine, MD, director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at NYU Langone and its Perlmutter Cancer Center, says HPV vaccination is particularly effective in preventing cervical cancer. “Unfortunately, it is tragically underused,” he says. “If more young girls were vaccinated, this effort, coupled with recommended cervical cancer screening, would significantly reduce the rate of cervical 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 the vaccine protects against several types of cancer. For these reasons, NCI-designated cancer centers have organized a continuing series of national summits to share new research, discuss best practices, and identify collective action toward improving vaccination rates.
The original joint statement supporting HPV vaccination, published in January 2016, was the major recommendation from a summit hosted at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in November 2015, which brought together experts from the NCI, CDC, American Cancer Society, and more than half of the NCI-designated cancer centers.
“We have been inspired by the White House Cancer Moonshot to work together in eliminating cancer,” says Electra Paskett, PhD, associate director of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center—Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute Cancer Control Research Program. “Improving HPV vaccination is an example of an evidence-based prevention strategy we can implement today to save thousands of lives in the future.”
The updated statement is the result of discussions from the most recent summit, hosted this summer by The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. Nearly 150 experts from across the country gathered in Columbus to present research updates and plan future collaborative actions across NCI-designated cancer centers.