Lombardi Cancer Center Joins Call for Increased Vaccination Against HPV

Posted in GUMC Stories

Jan. 27, 2016–On January 27, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center joined the other 68 National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer centers in issuing a joint statement urging increased vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV).

“Without a doubt, the best way to manage the tremendous burden of cancer is to prevent it, and the HPV vaccine is unmatched in its capacity to prevent certain cancer types,” says Dr. Louis M. Weiner, director of Georgetown Lombardi. “It’s highly effective and exceptionally safe, and we all must commit to improve vaccination rates by promoting the education of health care providers and parents.”

The statement is intended to draw attention to low national vaccination rates against HPV, which the institutions collectively recognize as a threat to public health.

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. Vaccination against HPV can prevent the majority of throat, anal, cervical and other genital cancers, yet vaccination rates remain low across the U.S.

About 40 percent of adolescent girls and 60 percent of adolescent boys have not been vaccinated, according to the CDC, which recommends (new window) vaccination for females ages 13-26 and males ages 16-21. Additionally, men who have sex with men are advised to get the vaccine up through age 26.    

Improving D.C. Vaccination Rates

Increasing vaccination rates is especially imperative in Washington, D.C., where the incidence of cervical cancer is higher than the national average, especially among African American and Hispanic women.

Georgetown Lombardi’s Sherrie Wallington, assistant professor of oncology and program director for the university’s  Health Disparities Initiative, has led outreach efforts among parents, adolescents and physicians in the city to promote vaccine uptake.

“The number one predictor across the U.S. of HPV vaccine uptake is physician recommendation,” Wallington said. “But what we’re finding is that a lot of physicians are not recommending it and if they are, not providing a strong HPV vaccine recommendation.”

Vaccine Menu

She said a lot of the current research is focusing on helping physicians understand that they have to treat this vaccine like all the other vaccines recommended for children and not “as something different.”

“[They should]  offer it almost like a menu or bundle of vaccines needed –  for example, here are the vaccines that your son or daughter needs today,” she explained.

Powerful Message

This past November, Wallington joined experts from the CDC, NCI, American Cancer Society and more than half of the NCI-designated cancer centers for a meeting in Houston to discuss strategies for overcoming barriers to HPV vaccination and increase vaccination rates in pediatric settings.

The statement issued was a 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.

Georgetown owns the patented technology on which HPV vaccines were developed. The university receives royalty payments for the development and commercialization of the HPV vaccine technology.

Kat Zambon 
GUMC Communications