Project 3

HPV Immunization Response and Stress (HIRS)

PI: Mack Ruffin

Co-Investigators:    Patrick Fahey
Lisa Christian

Project Manager:    Nita Williams

Statistician: Susan Geyer

A quadrivalent HPV 6, 11, 16, 18 vaccine (Gardasil®) has been approved for use among women age 9-26 years to prevent cervical/vaginal/vulvar cancer and genital warts.  The efficacy of the vaccine has been demonstrated in clinical trial settings, but the effectiveness of this vaccine has not been tested in clinical practice settings. Patients experiencing greater stress have a reduced capacity to mount an immune response to other types of vaccine.  The same phenomenon is likely to exist for Gardasil®, but there are no data.  The impact of psychological stress on the immune response to a vaccine is proposed to act via health behaviors (multiple lifetime sexual partners, never using condoms, prior abnormal Pap smear, smoking, and HPV infection) or by direct dysregulation of the immune system.  We have found higher rates of cervical HPV in Appalachian Ohio women, higher rates of abnormal cervical cytology, and very high rates of psychological stress compared to urban and suburban women.  The goal of this study is to determine if, in women age 18-26 years given Gardasil® vaccine, serum HPV 6/11/16/18 antibody response is altered by stress. This will be accomplished by a study of 438 women age 18-26 years who report full range of life stressors recruited from Appalachian Ohio.  All participants will receive the Gardasil® vaccine at baseline, two months, and six months.  Prior to vaccination, questionnaire data related to HPV exposure risk behaviors and psychological stressors will be collected.  Cervical samples will be collected for cytology and HPV testing.  Serum samples will be collected for HPV 6, 11, 16 and 18 antibody assays at baseline and month 12.  The questionnaire data and serum samples will be repeated at 12 months.  The primary outcome measure is the difference in serum antibodies to HPV 6, 11, 16 and 18 at baseline and month 12.  The variables of interest are perceived stress, sexual behaviors, socioeconomic status, access to health care (health insurance yes/no), smoking, Appalachian self-identity, HPV cervical status at baseline, and past history abnormal cervical cytology, as proposed in a psychoneuroimmunology model.  In this model, Appalachian Self-Identity, socioeconomic status, loneliness, health care access, and coping are proposed to contribute to a woman’s perceived stress.  The impact of perceived stress on  immune response to Gardasil® vaccination can be by health behaviors such as multiple lifetime sexual partners (>4), never using condoms,  prior abnormal Pap smear, smoking, and HPV status at the time of vaccination.  Perceived stress can have a direct physiologic impact on the immune response by creating immune dysregulation as measured by increased EBV VCA-IgG titers.  Depressive symptoms can mediate the impact of perceived stress on immune function.  If psychological stress is found to modulate the immune response to Gardasil®, then we can determine if the modulation reduces the clinical effectiveness of the vaccine and examine methods to limit the impact of stress.


The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) 300 W. 10th Ave. Columbus, OH 43210 Phone: 1-800-293-5066 | Email: jamesline@osumc.edu