The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center has joined the other 69 cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute to issue a statement urging increased vaccination for human papillomavirus.
Nearly 80 million Americans, or one in four people in the United States, are infected with HPV. Of those, more than 31,000 will be diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer this year. The HPV vaccine has been shown to prevent infections, but vaccination rates in the U.S. remain low.
“Cervical and other HPV-related cancers are preventable,” says international HPV expert Cosette Wheeler, PhD. Wheeler is a UNM Regents’ Professor and a member of the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We have the unprecedented opportunity to impact the cancer burden in our country and improve people’s lives and health by working toward eradicating HPV-related cancers.”
HPV vaccination rates remain significantly lower than for other recommended adolescent vaccines in the U.S. According 2016 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer 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. They include a lack of strong recommendations from physicians and a lack of understanding among parents that this vaccine protects against several types of cancer in men and women. HPV causes multiple cancers, including cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat) and other genital cancers.
HPV experts from the nation’s top cancer centers, along with partners from the NCI, CDC, and the American Cancer Society, are meeting June 7-8 in Salt Lake City to discuss a path to eliminate cancers caused by HPV. They will discuss ways to reduce the barriers to vaccination and share education, training and intervention strategies to improve vaccination rates.
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.
The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in a 500-mile radius. Its 125 board-certified oncology specialty physicians include cancer surgeons in every specialty (abdominal, thoracic, bone and soft tissue, neurosurgery, genitourinary, gynecology, and head and neck cancers), adult and pediatric hematologists/medical oncologists, gynecologic oncologists, and radiation oncologists. They, along with more than 600 other cancer healthcare professionals (nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, navigators, psychologists and social workers), provided cancer care for nearly 60 percent of the adults and 70 percent of the children in New Mexico affected by cancer. They treated 11,928 patients in 92,551 ambulatory clinic visits in addition to in-patient hospitalizations at UNM Hospital. These patients came from every county in the State. More than 12 percent of these patients participated in cancer clinical trials testing new cancer treatments and 35 percent of patients participated in other clinical research studies, including tests of novel cancer prevention strategies and cancer genome sequencing. The 130 cancer research scientists affiliated with the UNMCCC were awarded almost $50 million in federal and private grants and contracts for cancer research projects and published 301 high quality publications. Promoting economic development, they filed more than 30 new patents in FY16, and since 2010, have launched 11 new biotechnology start-up companies. Scientists associated with the UNMCCC Cancer Control & Disparities have conducted more than 60 statewide community-based cancer education, prevention, screening, and behavioral intervention studies involving more than 10,000 New Mexicans. Finally, the physicians, scientists and staff have provided education and training experiences to more than 230 high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellowship students in cancer research and cancer health care delivery. Learn more at cancer.unm.edu.