Georgetown Lombardi Urges HPV Vaccination for Cancer Prevention

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Joint statement with nation’s cancer centers urges parents, health care providers to act to increase vaccination rates

WASHINGTON (Jan. 27, 2016) — In response to low national vaccination rates for the human papillomavirus (HPV), Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center joined with other top cancer centers today in issuing in a joint statement (new window) urging increased HPV vaccination for the prevention of cancer. These institutions collectively recognize insufficient vaccination as a public health threat and call upon the nations’ health care providers, young adults and parents to take advantage of the opportunity to prevent cancers.

“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 statement co-signer Louis M. Weiner, MD, 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.”  (Georgetown University is owner of patented technology on which HPV vaccines were developed. The University receives royalty payments for the development and commercialization of the HPV vaccine technology).

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.

Vaccination rates remain low across the U.S. According to the CDC, four of ten adolescent girls and six of ten adolescent boys have not been vaccinated. The CDC recommends (new window)females age 13-26 and males age 16-21 be vaccinated. Men who have sex with men are encouraged to get the vaccine up through age 26.

Nowhere is the challenge to increase vaccine uptake more urgent than in Washington, DC, where the incidence of cervical cancer is higher than the national average, especially among African American and Hispanic women.

To that end, Georgetown Lombardi’s Sherrie Wallington, PhD, has led focus groups with parent and adolescents, and more recently, has focused her outreach efforts (new window) on a key gatekeeper for vaccinations — physicians.

“The number one predictor across the U.S. of HPV vaccine uptake is physician recommendation. 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,” Wallington said. “And so now, a lot of the research is focusing on helping physicians understand that they have to look at this like they look at other childhood recommended vaccines and don’t think of it as something different, but to offer it almost like a menu or bundle of vaccines needed; for example, here are the vaccines that your son or daughter needs today.”

To discuss strategies for overcoming these barriers, Wallington joined experts from the National Cancer Institute, CDC, American Cancer Society and more than half of the NCI-designated cancer centers met in Houston in November. During the meeting, cancer centers shared findings from 18 NCI-funded regional assessments, which sought to identify barriers to increasing immunization rates in pediatric settings across the country.

The statement issued today 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.

About Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center

Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach, and the training of cancer specialists of the future.  Georgetown Lombardi is one of only 45 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as designated by the National Cancer Institute (grant #P30 CA051008), and the only one in the Washington, DC area.  For more information, go to 

About Georgetown University Medical Center

Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis — or “care of the whole person.” The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization, which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.