COLUMBUS, Ohio -- In response to low national vaccination rates for the human papillomavirus (HPV), The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) has joined with the 68 other National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers in issuing a statement calling for increased HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination for the prevention of cancer. These institutions collectively recognize insufficient vaccination as a public health threat and call upon the nation’s health care providers, parents and young adults to take advantage of this rare opportunity to prevent many types of cancer.
“We want to community to understand that HPV vaccines are a safe and an important step for preventing HPV-associated cancers. This is true cancer prevention – all children who qualify for the vaccine should receive it,” says Electra Paskett, PhD, leader of the cancer control research program at the OSUCCC – James, and associate director for population sciences. “This is a huge public health concern but one that has concrete action steps that can be taken to reduce future cancer risk. We have a cancer vaccine – now people just need to get it!”
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. An estimated 79 million people are currently infected with the HPV virus and additional 17 million will contract the virus this year.
Several vaccines are available that can prevent the majority of cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat) and other genital cancers.
Vaccination rates remain low across the United States, with less than 40 percent of girls and approximately 21 percent of boys receiving the recommended three-dose vaccine. In Ohio, 35 percent of girls and 23 percent of boys have received the three-dose vaccine.
“These rates are far from the national goals of 80 percent completion of the three-shot series,” adds Paskett. “Research shows 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.”
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 -- including Paskett of The OSUCCC – James -- met in a summit at MD Anderson Cancer Center last November. During this summit, cancer centers shared findings from 18 NCI-funded environmental scans, or detailed regional assessments, which sought to identify barriers to increasing immunization rates in pediatric settings across the country.
“The main problem is that health care providers are not recommending the vaccine when children are getting other vaccinations at age 11 and 12, which is the primary focus of HPV vaccination efforts. Reasons for this oversight include lack of time to discuss the HPV vaccine in the visit (because it is newer), and perceived inability to answer parents’ concerns and questions about the HPV vaccine. At the same time, data presented at the meeting from the CDC reinforced the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine,” said Paskett. “The CDC presented their very simple message to parents: If there was a vaccine to prevent cancer, would you give it to your child? This is not the message the general public and parents are getting. The purpose of the initiative is to get this message to parents and to inform health care providers of assistance on the CDC website that they can use to address parents’ concerns.”
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.
NCI-designated cancer centers joined in this effort 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. The initiative calls for government, industry, academia and the community to work together in order to make meaningful progress against cancer through research. This joint call to action among the nation’s top cancer centers is one example of actions that can be taken today to reduce the future cancer burden in our community.
About the OSUCCC – James
The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute strives to create a cancer-free world by integrating scientific research with excellence in education and patient-centered care, a strategy that leads to better methods of prevention, detection and treatment. Ohio State is one of only 45 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and one of only four centers funded by the NCI to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials on novel anticancer drugs. As the cancer program’s 306-bed adult patient-care component, The James is one of the top cancer hospitals in the nation as ranked by U.S. News & World Report and has achieved Magnet designation, the highest honor an organization can receive for quality patient care and professional nursing practice. At 21 floors with more than 1.1 million square feet, The James is a transformational facility that fosters collaboration and integration of cancer research and clinical cancer care. For more information, visit cancer.osu.edu.