In response to low national vaccination rates for the human papillomavirus (HPV), Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) has joined with the 68 other National Cancer Institute (NCI)–designated cancer centers in issuing a statement urging for increased HPV vaccination for the prevention of cancer. These institutions 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 prevent many types of cancer.
“HPV vaccinations have the ability to make a tangible impact on the number of Americans diagnosed with cancer every year,” explained MSK Physician-in-Chief and Chief Medical Officer José Baselga, MD, PhD. “Memorial Sloan Kettering proudly issues this call to action, in conjunction with our colleagues at the nation’s leading cancer centers. We urge both parents and healthcare providers to join us in this effort by discussing the proven benefits of the HPV vaccination. Only by working collectively can we increase America’s inadequately low vaccination rate.”
NCI-designated cancer centers joined in this effort in the spirit of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union call for a national “moon shot” to cure cancer, a collaborative effort led by Vice President Joe Biden.
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 US. Several vaccines are available that can prevent the majority of oropharyngeal (middle throat), cervical, anal, and several other cancers.
Vaccination rates remain low across the US, with less than 40 percent of girls and just more than 21 percent of boys receiving the recommended three doses. Research shows there are a number of barriers to overcome to improve vaccination rates, including a lack of strong recommendations from physicians and parents, who may not understand that this vaccine protects against several types of cancer.
To discuss strategies for overcoming these obstacles, experts from the NCI, CDC, American Cancer Society, and more than half of the NCI-designated cancer centers met in a summit at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, 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 published call to action is a major recommendation resulting from discussions at that summit, with the goal of sending a powerful message to parents, adolescents, and healthcare providers about the importance of HPV vaccination for cancer prevention.