PHILADELPHIA -- The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) joins 70 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers and five national cancer organizations in urging increased human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination rates and screening measures to prevent the human devastation caused by HPV-related cancers. Insufficient vaccination is a public health threat, and the AACR calls upon the nation’s physicians, parents, and young adults to take advantage of this opportunity to eliminate several different types of cancer in men and women.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV is responsible for almost all cervical cancers, a substantial proportion of head and neck cancers, and the majority of anal, vulvar, vaginal, and penile cancers. CDC data show that approximately 41,000 new HPV-related cancers are being diagnosed in the United States each year, 17,300 of which are diagnosed in men and about 23,700 of which are diagnosed in women. In the United States, the overall annual direct medical cost of HPV-related diseases is at least $8 billion.
“This call to action, which is shared by our nation’s leading cancer organizations, is an important first step in the elimination of HPV-related cancers,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “The long-term investment in biomedical research has led to a series of scientific discoveries that have enabled us to reach this juncture where we now have highly effective tools and well-defined steps for putting an end to HPV-related cancers.”
The AACR will join HPV experts from the nation’s top cancer centers, along with partners from the NCI, CDC, and the American Cancer Society, for a meeting June 7 and 8 in Salt Lake City to discuss a path forward to the elimination of cancers caused by HPV. Important topics will include ways to reduce barriers to vaccination and to share education, training, and intervention strategies to improve vaccination rates.
“Thanks to decades of research that has produced the HPV vaccine and important screening methods, we have safe and effective tools at our disposal to help eliminate cervical and other HPV-related cancers,” said AACR President Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, deputy director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. “However, we know that these innovative prevention approaches are not reaching all Americans, and that questions remain on how to enable broad access to these interventions. Eliminating HPV-related cancers will require researchers, health care providers, patients, community leaders, government officials, and scientific society personnel to work together to solve the impediments to implementation.”
Since its introduction in 2006, more than 100 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been distributed nationally. The CDC recommends all 11- to 12-year-old girls and boys receive the HPV vaccine. The Department of Health and Human Services, through the Healthy People 2020 initiative, has introduced a goal of reaching a vaccination rate of 80 percent for both girls and boys by the year 2020. However, as of 2016, only 49.5 percent of girls and 37.5 percent of boys in the U.S. had completed the HPV vaccine series, according to the CDC.
Research shows that certain barriers must be overcome to improve vaccination rates. One such barrier is the a lack of strong recommendations from physicians; another is that parents may not be aware that this vaccine protects against several types of cancer in both men and women.
Dr. Foti added, “Today’s call to action will bring the entire cancer research and cancer control community together to focus its efforts on the very achievable and life-saving goal of eliminating HPV-related cancers in the U.S. The AACR looks forward to marshaling its resources in support of this important effort.”