For Immediate Release June 07, 2018

Joint Statement Empowers Parents, Young Adults and Physicians to Act to Increase Vaccination Rates and Screenings

Baltimore – The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC) joins with 69 other National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers to urge increased vaccination for human papillomavirus (HPV) and screening to eliminate HPV-related cancers.

Kevin Cullen MD

“We strongly encourage all adolescents to take advantage of this safe and effective vaccine,” says Kevin J. Cullen, MD, the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Distinguished Professor of Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and director of UMGCCC. “In my own practice, I treat many people with HPV-induced cancers of the head and neck. They suffer greatly with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to overcome these cancers which can be entirely prevented in the future if we vaccinate adolescents now.” 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends all children complete the vaccine series between ages 9-13. Children younger than 15 should receive two doses of the vaccine six months apart. Those above age 15 should complete a three-dose series. The vaccine is recommended for young men up to age 21 and young women up to age 26.

Nearly 80 million Americans – one out of every four people – are infected with HPV. And of those millions, more than 31,000 will be diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer this year. Despite those staggering figures and the availability of a vaccine to prevent the infections that cause these cancers, HPV vaccination remains low in the United States. 

The joint statement by the NCI-designated cancer centers calls for increased HPV vaccination and evidence-based screening to eliminate HPV-related cancers, starting with cervical cancer. The centers collectively 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 eliminate several different types of cancer in men and women. 

Most HPV infections have no symptoms and are naturally cleared. However, in some cases, HPV infection can lead to several types of devastating cancers later in life, including cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat) and other genital cancers.

“We are asking health care providers to stand with us and recommend the HPV vaccine. Parents can join with us by asking their doctors about vaccination,” says Anna R. Giuliano, PhD, director of the Center for Infection Research in Cancer at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. 

Vaccination rates remain significantly lower than other recommended adolescent vaccines in the U.S. According 2016 data from the CDC, less than 50 percent of girls and 38 percent of boys completed the recommended vaccine series. 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 in men and women. 

“Parents’ attitudes about the vaccine are slowly shifting, but still more progress must be made,” says Steven J. Czinn, MD, the Drs. Rouben and Violet Jiji Endowed Professor of Pediatrics and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. “The HPV vaccine is the one and only cancer prevention vaccine that we have.”

HPV experts from the nation’s top cancer centers, along with partners from the NCI, CDC and the American Cancer Society (ACS), are meeting June 7-8 in Salt Lake City to discuss a path forward to eliminating cancers caused by HPV, including ways to reduce barriers to vaccination, as well as share education, training and intervention strategies to improve vaccination rates.

On June 6, ACS launched Mission: HPV Cancer Free, a public health campaign to eliminate vaccine-preventable HPV cancers, starting with cervical cancer. The goal of the campaign is to have 80 percent of 13-year-old boys and girls in the U.S. fully vaccinated with HPV vaccine by 2026 – 20 years after introduction of the first HPV vaccine. 

This is the third year that all NCI-designated cancer centers have come together to issue a national call to action. All 70 cancer centers unanimously share the goal of sending a powerful message to parents, adolescents and health care providers about the importance of HPV vaccination for the elimination of HPV-related cancers. 

This joint statement is supported by the ACS, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the Prevent Cancer Foundation, the American Society for Preventive Oncology (ASPO) and the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI).

About the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center

The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center is a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in Baltimore. The center is a joint entity of the University of Maryland Medical Center and University of Maryland School of Medicine. It offers a multidisciplinary approach to treating all types of cancer and has an active cancer research program. It is ranked among the top cancer programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Visit www.umgccc.org.