By Ron Gilmore
The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of a new vaccine that targets five additional strains of human papilloma virus (HPV) fortifies a proven cancer prevention weapon, says MD Anderson President Ron DePinho, M.D. DePinho, the father of three, considers HPV vaccination a “national child welfare priority and major parental responsibility.”
In December, the FDA greenlighted the use of Gardasil 9 to prevent cancers caused by nine HPV strains — five more than its predecessor, Gardasil. The FDA says Gardasil 9 has the potential to prevent most cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers.
“This is an incredible step forward in our fight to end cancer,” says DePinho. “MD Anderson hopes the vaccine approval will change the conversation about HPV vaccination from sex to saving lives.”
MD Anderson clinicians, researchers and educators are spearheading an institutionwide approach to HPV-related cancers. Programs are underway for parents, teachers, clergy, policy makers, pediatricians and the general public to increase HPV vaccination rates in Texas and across the nation, improve early screening and detection and develop novel therapies:
- Efforts to improve screening capabilities and quickly move biomedical research findings from the laboratory to the bedside
- Clinical research using high-resolution microendoscopy, a low-cost alternative to colposcopy and biopsies that may prove valuable in low-resource settings
- A community outreach program to improve screening and prevention in the Lower Rio Grande Valley on the Texas-Mexico border, where cervical cancer rates are up to 30% higher than the state average
- A national partnership with peer institutions in 18 states to increase HPV vaccination rates
“If we can increase vaccination rates in this country, this vaccine approval has the power to save thousands of lives,” says Lois Ramondetta, M.D., associate professor in Gynecologic Oncology, estimating the new vaccine will cover about 90% of cervical cancers, one of the most common forms of HPV-caused cancer.