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Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center Encourages HPV Vaccination

VICC Joins Major Cancer Centers for Cancer Prevention Effort

January 27, 2016 | Dagny Stuart

Contact: Dagny Stuart, (615) 936-7245
Dagny.stuart@vanderbilt.edu

In response to low national vaccination rates for the human papillomavirus (HPV), Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) has joined 68 of the nation’s other NCI-designated cancer centers in urging increased HPV vaccination for the prevention of cancer. Experts at VICC, in collaboration with colleagues at the other cancer centers, recognize insufficient vaccination as a public health threat and call upon the nation’s physicians, parents and young adults to take advantage of this rare opportunity to prevent many types of cancer.

pietenpol-jennifer

Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D.

“It is important to add HPV vaccination to the immunization schedule for our children and young adults because it protects against cancers caused by HPV infection,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology and director of VICC. “Parents may not realize about 14 million people, including teens, become infected each year in the United States and that HPV infections are linked to several types of cancer.”

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 U.S. Several HPV vaccines are available that can prevent the majority of cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (back of throat) and other genital cancers.

National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers joined in the effort to encourage vaccinations in the spirit of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union call for a national “moonshot” to cure cancer, a collaborative effort led by Vice President Joe Biden.

HPV 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. Vaccination rates are even lower in the Tennessee region.

Research shows there are a number of barriers to improved vaccination rates, including a lack of strong recommendations from physicians and parents not understanding that these vaccines protect 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 Houston, Texas, last November. During this summit, cancer centers including Vanderbilt-Ingram, shared findings from 18 NCI-funded environmental scans, or detailed regional assessments, to identify barriers to increasing immunization rates in pediatric settings across the country.

VICC’s Pamela Hull, Ph.D., assistant professor of Medicine, participated in that summit.

“As parents, the HPV vaccine gives us a powerful tool to protect our children from several types of cancer,” Hull said. “The HPV vaccine is very safe, just as safe as all the other vaccines we give children when they are little.  Parents should ask their child’s doctor about HPV vaccine, and doctors should talk to parents of pre-teens about it every chance they get.”

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.

Read the NCI consensus statement on HPV vaccination.