Pre-Teens need just two doses of HPV vaccine, not three: Feds

Author: Maggie Fox

There’s good news for kids who haven’t received all their HPV vaccines yet – they only need two doses of the vaccine instead of three, federal government advisers said Wednesday. The new recommendations should make it easier to get more children vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes a range of cancers including cervical cancer, throat cancer and mouth cancer, officials said.

“It’s not often you get a recommendation simplifying vaccine schedules,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC immediately accepted the recommendations from its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

“Safe, effective, and long-lasting protection against HPV cancers with two visits instead of three means more Americans will be protected from cancer,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. “This recommendation will make it simpler for parents to get their children protected in time.”

The CDC says every pre-teen boy and girl should get the vaccine, but fewer than a third have received all three doses.

Messonnier says the three-dose schedule was based on the earliest studies of the vaccine. New studies show that two doses protect people for decades from the cancer-causing virus. And studies also suggest that spacing the two doses a year apart is at least as effective, if not more effective than giving them more closely together – something that could also make it easier to get kids fully vaccinated.

Older teens who have not been vaccinated at all before age 15 should still get three doses, because there’s not enough evidence to show whether two doses fully protect them, ACIP said.

Adults can also get the HPV vaccine. “Young women can get HPV vaccine through age 26, and young men can get vaccinated through age 21,” the CDC says.

“The vaccine is also recommended for any man who has sex with men through age 26, and for men with compromised immune systems (including HIV) through age 26, if they did not get HPV vaccine when they were younger.”

HPV is extremely common, but rates of HPV-related disease have fallen among vaccinated people.

“About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year. HPV infection can cause cervical,vaginal, and vulvar cancers in women; penile cancer in men; and anal cancer, cancer of the back of the throat (oropharynx), and genital warts in both men and women,” the CDC says.

The original two vaccines on the market protected against either two or four of the strains of HPV known to cause cancer. Now the only vaccine available in the U.S. is Merck’s Gardasil 9, which protect against 9 strains of HPV.

Messonnier says it’s too soon to say whether teens vaccinated with the older vaccines should get a top-up dose with the new formulation.

October, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

Mouth, throat cancers caused by HPV on the rise, especially among Canadian men

Author: Sonja Puzic, Staff

Mouth and throat cancers caused by the human papilloma virus have been rising steadily over the past two decades, with a “dramatic” increase among Canadian men, according to a new report from the Canadian Cancer Society.

The special report on HPV-associated cancers, released Wednesday as part of the 2016 Canadian Cancer Statistics breakdown, says the rate of mouth and throat cancers in men is poised to surpass the rate of cervical cancer diagnoses in women.

Researchers and doctors have known for decades that certain strains of HPV – the most commonly sexually transmitted disease in Canada and the world — cause cervical cancer. But the latest Canadian cancer statistics show that only 35 per cent of HPV cancers are cervical, and that about 33 per cent of HPV cancers occur in males.

The latest data show that about one-third of all HPV cancers in Canada are found in the mouth and throat.

Between 1992 and 2012, the incidence of HPV-related mouth and throat cancers increased 56 per cent in males and 17 per cent in females. In 1992, the age-standardized incidence rate (or ASIR) of those cancers was 4.1 per 100,000 Canadian males. In 2012, it was 6.4 per 100,000 males. In females, the rate was 1.2 in 1992 and 1.4 in 2012.

‘I thought I was done’
Three years ago, Dan Antoniuk noticed a lump on his neck and initially thought that it was just a swollen gland. But when the Edmonton father went to see a doctor, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer, caused by HPV.

“I was devastated. I thought I was done,” Antoniuk, 61, told CTV News. “It shattered me, it shattered my family and affected everybody sitting in the waiting room.”

Antoniuk said that until his diagnosis, he had never heard of HPV cancers in men. His doctors told him that, despite the late stage of his cancer, his prognosis was still good with the right treatment. He underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and although the treatments took a toll on his body, he’s now doing well.

“The end result is I am here, I am healthy and I can do most of the same things I have done before,” he said. “The ultimate message is: Be aware of your body and be aware of the fact that this could be something more serious and there is hope now.”

Dr. Hadi Seikaly, a professor and oncology surgeon at the University of Alberta, said doctors are seeing more HPV-related cancers in both men and women.

“The surprising thing is that we’re just seeing the front end of the epidemic,” he told CTV News. “And it is an epidemic … cervical cancer rates are coming down and head, neck cancer rates are going up.”

Doctors say that oropharyngeal cancers (which include the back of the throat, the base of the tongue and the tonsils) and cancers of the mouth used to be mostly found in older patients who smoked, drank heavily or had other health issues. But it’s now more common to see HPV-related throat and mouth cancers in younger, otherwise healthy patients.

“HPV is without question driving the dramatic increase we are seeing in oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma (OPSCC),” Dr. Joseph Dort, the chief of otolaryngology head and neck surgery at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, told CTV News.

“Our most recent data shows that about 70 per cent of our new cases of this cancer are HPV positive. Recent studies suggest that oropharyngeal cancer will become the most common HPV-associated malignancy by the year 2020, surpassing cancer of the cervix,” he said in an email.

The changing face of the disease
Jennifer Cicci was shocked to learn that she had oral cancer caused by HPV after a lump appeared on the side of her neck in the fall of 2013.

The dental hygienist and mother of four from Brampton, Ont., said she was an otherwise healthy woman in her 40s who didn’t have any of the typical risk factors associated with head and neck cancers.

Cicci’s surgeon removed a baseball-sized mass of tissue from the back of her throat and a section from the back of her tongue. She also underwent laser surgery and radiation, with painful side effects. Still, she feels she “got off easy,” despite the entire ordeal.

In some cases, mouth and neck cancer treatments can have devastating effects on a patient’s ability to speak and eat. Some patients have had parts of their tongues and even their voice boxes removed.

The good news, doctors say, is that HPV-related cancers seem to be more treatable. More than 80 per cent of patients will survive if the cancer is caught in time.

“I felt like having this gave me an opportunity to raise awareness of something that I felt was becoming an epidemic,” Cicci said.

Dr. Brian O’Sullivan, a head and neck cancer specialist at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, said that HPV infections in the throat and mouth are largely linked to sexual contact, but he has also seen patients who have had very few sexual partners and little experience with oral sex.

Calls for more widespread HPV immunization
The Canadian Cancer Society estimates that nearly 4,400 Canadians will be diagnosed with an HPV-caused cancer (that can include cervical, vaginal, anal and oral) and about 1,200 will die from it in 2016.

The society is focusing its messaging on cancer prevention and informing the public about the HPV vaccine. The two HPV vaccines approved by Health Canada are Gardasil and Cervarix.

HPV immunization is already available through publicly-funded school programs across the country, starting between Grades 4 and 7, up to age 13. But while the vaccine is offered to girls in all provinces and territories, only six provinces — Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Quebec – also offer it to boys.

The Canadian Cancer Society is calling on the remaining provinces and territories to expand HPV immunization to boys.

Robert Nuttall, the society’s assistant director of health policy, also said that adults should talk to their doctors to see whether they can benefit from the HPV vaccine. However, there is currently no scientific evidence showing the benefits of HPV vaccines in older adults.

In Canada, Gardasil is approved for use in females aged 9 to 45, and males aged 9 to 26. Cervarix is approved for use in females between the ages of 10 and 25, but is currently not approved for boys and young men.

The vaccine works best in people who have not been exposed to HPV. That’s why it is given to school-aged children and teens as a preventative measure.

It will be a while before scientists can conclusively determine whether HPV vaccines can prevent throat and neck cancers, since it can take many years for an HPV infection to cause malignancies.

In the meantime, Dr. Seikaly says it’s important for Canadians to understand this disease could happen to anybody, because the modes of HPV transmission aren’t fully understood.

“They need to understand the signs and symptoms of it. And those include pain in your throat, difficulty swallowing, neck masses, ulcers in your mouth and throat,” he said. “And they need to make sure during their physical that doctors do look in their mouth and their throat.”

Early symptoms of mouth and throat cancers can often be vague, but they also include white or red patches inside the mouth or on the lips, persistent earaches and loose teeth.

As a dental hygienist who was also a cancer patient, Cicci urges regular exams of the mouth and throat during dental visits.

“What I try to do is to break down the stigma that is attached to (HPV),” she said. “The fact of the matter is, while most of the time it is still being sexually transmitted … we don’t know all the modes of transmission.”

October, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

Merck KGaA, Pfizer and Transgene team up on cancer vaccine

Author: Joe Cantlupe

Dive Brief:

  • Transgene announced Tuesday it is teaming up with Merck KGaA of Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer to evaluate the possibilities of the combination of its human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive head and neck cancer vaccine TG40001 with big pharma’s avalumab in a Phase 1/2 study.
  • The incidence of HPV-related head and neck cancers has increased significantly, with one variation, HPV-16 accounting for 90% of all HPV-related head and neck cancers. HPV-16 is a subset of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), a group of cancers that can affect the mouth and throat. Global spending on head and neck cancer indications amounted to $1 billion in 2010, according to the companies’ recent estimates.
  • Current treatments for the disease include surgical resection with radiotherapy or chemo-radiotherapy; the companies say they are exploring better options for advanced and metastatic HPV and HNSCC.

Dive Insight:
The current deal between the big pharma partners and Transgene highlights the industry’s efforts to create combination therapies to treat cancer. Virtually every company in the space has embraced the idea that using multiple modes of attack could be the only way to eventually find cures for the many forms of cancer; companies have been teaming up in hopes of finding that crucial pairing.

In previous clinical trials, TG4001 has demonstrated promising activity in terms of HPV viral clearance and was well tolerated, according to Transgene. TG4001 is one of the few drugs targeting HPV-associated cancers that can be combined with an immune checkpoint inhibitor such as avelumab.

TG4001 is an active immunotherapeutic designed by Transgene to express the coding sequences of the E6 and E7 tumor associate antigens of HPV-16, and the cytokine, L IL-2. Avelumab is an investigational fully human antibody specific for a protein found on tumor cells called PD-L1. It is considered to have a mechanism that may enable an immune system to locate an attack cancer cells. In 2014, Merck KGaA and Pfizer signed a strategic alliance to co-develop and commercialize avelumab.

“The preclinical and clinical data that have been generated with both TG4001 and avelumab individually suggest this combination could potentially demonstrate a synergistic effect, delivering a step up in therapy for HPV- positive HNSCC patients,” said Philippe Archinard, chairman and CEO of Transgene, in a statement.

Christophe Le Tourneau, the principal investigator of the study, said HPV-induced head and neck cancers are now treated with the same regimen as non-HPV-positive HNSCC tumors, and that is not enough. “Their different etiology clearly suggests that differentiated treatment approaches are needed for HPV-positive patients,” he said in a statement. “Targeting two distinct steps in the immune response could deliver improved efficacy for patients who have not responded to or have progressed after a first line of treatment,” added Le Tourneau, who is also head of the Early Phase Program at Institut Curie.

This trial is expected to begin in France, with the first patients expected to be recruited in the beginning of 2017, said Le Tourneau. The companies will seek to recruit patients with recurrent and/or metastatic virus-positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma that have progressed after definitive local treatment or chemotherapy, and cannot be treated with surgical resection and/or re-irradiation.

October, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

Cancer-Preventing Vaccines Given To Less Than Half Of US Kids

Author: Carrie Feibel

U.S. regulators approved a vaccine to protect against the human papilloma virus (HPV) in 2006, but cancer experts say misconceptions and stigma continue to hamper acceptance by both doctors and parents.

Eighty percent of Americans are exposed to the human papilloma virus in their lifetimes. Some strains of HPV can cause genital warts, but most people experience no symptoms and clear the virus from their systems within a year or two. But for an unlucky minority, the virus causes damage that, years later, leads to cervical cancer, throat cancer, and other types.

Researchers at MD Anderson are frustrated that ten years after the first vaccine arrived on the market, only 42 percent of U.S. girls, and 28 percent of boys, are getting the three-shot series.

The series can be given to girls and boys between the ages of 9 and 26, but the immune response is strongest at younger ages, before sexual activity begins.

n 2007, then-Texas governor Rick Perry proposed making the HPV vaccine mandatory for all preteen girls.  At the time, the vaccine was only approved and marketed for girls.

Dr. Lois Ramondetta, a cervical cancer specialist at MD Anderson, remembers the outcry.

“A lot of people felt that was the right idea, but the wrong way to go about it. Nobody really likes being told what to do, especially in Texas,” Ramondetta said. “I think there was a lot of backlash.”

Eventually, the legislature rejected Perry’s plan, even though it included an opt-out provision. Ramondetta said too many politicians focused on the fact that HPV is sexually transmitted. That had the unfortunate effect of skewing the conversation away from health care and into debates about morality and sexuality. She said the best and most accurate way to discuss the vaccine is to describe it as something that can prevent illness and death.

“I try to remove the whole concept of sexuality,” Ramondetta said. “When you’re talking about an infection that infects 80 percent of people, you’re really talking about something that is part of the human condition. Kind of like, it’s important to wash your hands because staph and strep are on all of us.”

Today, only Virginia, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C. mandate HPV vaccines.

“Our vaccination rates are really terrible right now,” Ramondetta said.

In Texas, only 41 percent of girls get all three of the required shots, and only 24 percent of boys.


Kara Million of League City finds those numbers upsetting.  Million survived two rounds of treatment for cervical cancer.

“Even if you had a chance that your kid could have any kind of cancer, and you could have given them two shots or three shots for it? To me, it’s a no-brainer,” Million said.

Million always got regular Pap tests. But she missed one appointment during a busy time following the birth of her second child. When she went back, it had been only 15 months since her last Pap test. But the doctor found cervical cancer, and it had already progressed to stage 3.

“That was a huge surprise,” Million recalled.

Million had chemotherapy and radiation at MD Anderson. But a year later the cancer returned.

The next step was surgery, a radical procedure called a total pelvic exenteration.

Million and her husband looked it up online.

“When I was reading it, I was just, like, ‘this is so barbaric, there is no way they are still doing this in this day and age,’” Million said. “‘For certain, in 2010 we have better surgeries to do than this.’”

But there weren’t better surgeries. This was her only option.

“I had a total hysterectomy; they pulled all the reproductive system out,” she explained. “They take your bladder out, they take part of your rectum, they take part of your colon, they take your vagina, all of that in your pelvic area comes out.”

The surgery took 13 hours, and left her with a permanent colostomy bag and urostomy bag.

“At that point, with two kids at that age – I think they were one-and-a-half and three – there’s no option. I’m a mom, so I’m going to do whatever it takes so they can have their mom.”

Most women survive cervical cancer if it’s caught early enough. But Million’s cancer was diagnosed at a later stage, where only a third of women make it past five years. She has already made it past that five-year anniversary, and she’s not wasting any time.

She now volunteers as a peer counselor at MD Anderson to other cervical cancer patients, and she urges parents to vaccinate their kids.

“If most of cervical cancer is caused by HPV, and now we have something that can help prevent what I went through, and what my friends went through, and the friends that I lost?” Million says, “I don’t understand why people don’t line up at the door to get their kids vaccinated for it.”

But Dr. Ramondetta said parents can’t consent to the vaccination if pediatricians or family doctors don’t offer it. And they’re not offering it nearly enough, she said.

Some doctors don’t know how to broach the topic, fearing it will lead to a difficult conversation about sexual behavior. Some mistakenly think boys don’t need it, although they do – not only to protect their partners from HPV, but to protect themselves against oropharyngeal and anal cancers, which are also caused by HPV.  Ramondetta added that some doctors incorrectly assume that giving the vaccine will promote promiscuity.

Ramondetta says extensive research actually shows it doesn’t.

“There should be this understanding of an ethical responsibility. That this is part of cancer screening and prevention, just like recommending mammograms and colonoscopies.”

In Texas, only 41 percent of girls get all three of the required shots, and only 24 percent of boys.

*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.

September, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

Why men need to start caring about HPV

Author: Sarah Jacoby

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of very few STIs that we have a vaccine for. And — bonus! — that vaccine prevents cancer. But a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released last month indicated that although we’ve made some improvements in the vaccination rates, they still aren’t where we want them — especially for boys. This is despite the fact that pretty much everyone who’s sexually active will get the virus at some point and men are at risk for their own unique set of HPV-related health consequences.

Let’s start with the basics: “HPV is a virus that’s sexually transmitted, but it’s incredibly common,” explains Kathleen Schmeler, MD, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Up to 80% of people get it at some point in their lives, she says, which is why some doctors refer to it as the “common cold” of STIs. For most people, the virus goes away on its own, without causing symptoms or needing treatment. Some people develop genital warts that can be treated with medication. But in some rare instances, the virus can go on to cause more serious health issues — including some types of cancer.

“The problem is we don’t know who’s going to clear it and who won’t,” Dr. Schmeler says. Most notably, HPV is known to cause cervical cancer. In fact, nearly all cases of cervical cancer are attributed to HPV. In 2013, the most recent year with available data, almost 12,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in the U.S. and about 4,200 women died from the disease.

In addition to the risks of passing on the virus to their partners, men may face other consequences of HPV. Some types of HPV-related cancer, including throat cancer, are actually more common among men than women. “The rates for that are increasing significantly,” says Dr. Schmeler. “That’s been a huge deal recently.”

However, there is currently no accepted test for HPV-related cancers in men. Women are recommended to get a routine Pap screening, which can detect abnormal cervical cells that may be a result of an HPV infection. But similar screening for anal, penile, and throat cancers in men isn’t recommended.

“The common story that we hear is that [men are] shaving and they find a big lump in their neck,” says Dr. Schmeler. “But by then, it’s advanced disease because it’s spread to the lymph nodes.”

So although Dr. Schmeler’s team is working to find one, there’s no early or precancerous-stage test to detect HPV-related cancer in men.

Because they can’t be tested, it’s that much more important for boys to get the vaccine. Currently, the vaccine is recommended for boys and girls ages 11 to 12 to make sure they get it before they come in contact with the virus. But according to that August report, only about 50% of boys and 63% of girls actually got the vaccine in 2015. While the rates are improving quickly, they’re still nowhere near where they should be.

So why is it that the already-low vaccination rate is even lower for boys than girls? Part of that appears to be due to the way the vaccine was originally marketed: “When it first came out [in 2006], it was recommended only for girls because the primary focus was cervical cancer,” explains Dr. Schmeler. Since then, the CDC has expanded its recommendations to include boys, too. Parents may simply be unaware of the update.

According to research from the CDC, another big problem is that parents don’t believe their kids are (or are about to be) sexually active at that age. Doctors may be reluctant to push the issue or, in some cases, even bring it up.

“Everyone’s so obsessed with the fact that it’s a sexually transmitted disease,” says Dr. Schmeler. “[And in the process, we’re] forgetting that, with this vaccine, we can prevent cancer.”

It may be too late for adult men to get the most out of vaccination — it’s recommended that everyone get the vaccine by age 26. But for it to be it’s most effective, you should ideally get the vaccine before you’re exposed to the virus. And if you’ve already had multiple sexual partners, it’s likely that you’ve already been exposed.

But that doesn’t mean men don’t have to worry about this. In addition to the risk of spreading the virus to their partners, men are at risk for various cancers, as well. The bottom line is that HPV affects everyone, so we should all be equally sharing the burden of stopping the virus — and its associated cancers.

September, 2016|Oral Cancer News|

Despite medical backing, HPV vaccine rates remain low amid sexual and moral controversy

Author: Rick Ruggles, World-Herald staff writer


The HPV vaccine can reduce the rates of certain cancers, including many cervical and oral cancers, physicians and medical organizations say. But opposition by some individuals is strong, and HPV vaccination rates remain low when compared with other kinds of vaccinations recommended for adolescents.

Because the human papillomavirus is sexually transmitted and seventh grade is considered the ideal time to receive the three-dose vaccine regimen, the issue is rife with sexual and moral implications. Perhaps more potent today, though, are Internet horror stories and concerns about side effects.

A World-Herald Facebook request for views on the HPV vaccine generated far more negatives than positives. “NO NO & NO!! There is NO reason for this vaccine,” one wrote. Another called it a “deadly shot.”

Two Omaha mothers who were interviewed expressed their belief that it’s wise to have children vaccinated, and said their kids suffered no side effects. But an Iowa man described health problems suffered by his daughter, and he and an Ohio physician believe the girl was injured by the HPV vaccinations.

So mediocre are HPV vaccination rates that GSK, the maker of Cervarix, plans to cease distribution of its HPV vaccine in the United States in September. It will continue to supply it in many other nations, such as Great Britain, Germany, France and Mexico. The departure of Cervarix leaves the market to Gardasil, a vaccine produced by Merck.

“GSK has made the decision to stop supplying Cervarix … in the U.S. due to very low market demand,” the company told The World-Herald last week by email.

Many doctors in the Omaha area express disappointment with the low HPV vaccination rates but are optimistic that the situation will improve.

“As pediatricians, we’re trying to change that,” said Dr. Katrena Lacey, a Methodist Physicians Clinic pediatrician in Gretna. “I think we’re on the right track.”

A survey of adolescents reported last year by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 39.7 percent of girls ages 13 to 17 had received the three-dose regimen of the HPV vaccine in 2014, and 21.6 percent of boys.

This compares with 87.6 percent of boys and girls who had received the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis vaccination and 79.3 percent who had received the meningococcal vaccine.

Dr. Megann Sauer, a pediatrician with Boys Town Pediatrics, said parents accept use of the vaccine if it’s explained well and described as a cancer-prevention strategy. “It’s a huge responsibility for us as providers to offer this to our patients,” Sauer said. “My job is to keep my patients healthy.”

Gardasil was approved in the United States 10 years ago. It was met with concern that having a child vaccinated for HPV, which is the most common sexually transmitted infection, would promote promiscuity.

Today, the global Christian ministry Focus on the Family says it “supports universal availability of HPV vaccines,” but it opposes government-mandated HPV vaccinations for public-school enrollment. The mandates are in place in Virginia, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.

Tom Venzor of the Nebraska Catholic Conference said the vaccine itself isn’t morally problematic. But “the promotion of chastity and parental consent should never be undermined in the promotion of the HPV vaccine,” Venzor said in an email.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that there are more than 14 million new human papillomavirus infections annually in the U.S. Most resolve on their own, but some chronic HPV infections can embed in tissues and lead to cervical cancers and tongue, tonsil, anal, vulvar, vaginal and penile cancers.

The American Cancer Society estimated there will be close to 13,000 new cases of cervical cancer this year and 4,120 deaths. HPV was detected in more than 90 percent of cervical cancers, a 2015 study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute said.

“If you’ve ever seen anyone die of cervical cancer, it will tear you apart, because it’s a nasty, nasty disease,” said Dr. Steve Remmenga, a specialist in gynecologic oncology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Remmenga advocates getting the vaccination.

The CDC recommends routine HPV vaccinations beginning at 11 or 12 years of age for girls and boys, but the series can start as early as 9 years of age. The second dose should be given a month or two later and the third at least six months after the first. The vaccinations may be completed by 26 years of age. The recommendations have been adopted by the American Cancer Society and other medical organizations.

The recommendations suggest children receive the vaccinations “so they are protected before ever being exposed to the virus,” the CDC said. The agency said clinical trials indicate the vaccination provides “limited or no protection” against HPV-related diseases for women older than 26.

The CDC says the vaccine has repeatedly been shown to be safe.

Kari Nelson, a biology instructor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, said two of her daughters, Claire and Emma, have had the full regimen and her third daughter, Gretchen, is about to get her second shot.

“I definitely believe in protecting my kids as much as possible,” Nelson said. “I do always try to weigh the pros and cons of anything. I just feel that the pros far outweigh the cons in this case.”

The Nelsons’ pediatrician, Dr. Tina Scott-Mordhorst, supports children and adolescents receiving the HPV vaccine. Why, she asked, would anyone not get a shot that might prevent cancer? “It works,” said Scott-Mordhorst, a clinical professor in UNMC’s department of pediatrics.

A study reported this year in the journal Pediatrics found that among sexually active females ages 14 to 24, the prevalence of four key HPV types was 16.9 percent among the unvaccinated and 2.1 percent among the vaccinated.

Scientists say it can take many years for chronic HPV to turn cancerous.

Dr. Bill Lydiatt, a head and neck cancer surgeon at Methodist Hospital, said oral sex and the sexual revolution of the late 1960s have contributed to an increase in cancers of the pharynx, or tonsil and back of tongue. The cancer society reported there will be 16,420 cases of cancer of the pharynx this year, most of them in men, compared with 8,950 in 2006. More than 3,000 will die this year from that kind of cancer, the society says.

Lydiatt said scientists only about 10 years ago made the clear link between HPV and cancers of the pharynx and tonsils.

There are more than 150 strains of HPV and more than 40 that can cause cancer, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported. The first form of Gardasil protected against four strains, including the two believed to be most prevalent in cancers. Two years ago the FDA approved a Gardasil vaccine that protected against nine strains. The study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute says that “current vaccines will reduce most HPV-associated cancers.”

The vaccines are expensive. The Gardasil nine-strain vaccine is close to $250 per dose at Kohll’s Pharmacy if a family pays out of pocket. But many insurers, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Nebraska, Aetna/Coventry and UnitedHealthcare, participate in the payment.

A Merck spokeswoman said GSK’s decision to cease supplying Cervarix to the U.S. market hasn’t affected Gardasil prices as of now. An Omaha pharmacist said it wouldn’t be unusual to see prices go up with the departure of a competitor. “The reality is that they can,” Mohamed Jalloh said. “I’m not saying they’re going to.”

Merck has applied to the Food and Drug Administration to market a two-dose regimen of Gardasil, which would reduce the overall price of the series.

Facebook posts and the Internet contain scathing reviews of Gardasil, including stories of children being hurt and families being scared of the vaccination.

Laura Hansen, a cancer researcher at Creighton University, said she wishes she could find the words to persuade people to get their kids vaccinated.

“About all of us have family members impacted by cancer,” said Hansen, a professor of biomedical sciences. By having their kids vaccinated, she said, “Every parent could make an impact on cancer deaths.”

She said it’s hard to fight Internet scare stories and “anecdotal science” as opposed to real science and legitimate studies. The discussion should be “more about facts and less about hysteria,” said Hansen, who saw to it that her two teen-age sons, Charlie and Jack, were vaccinated.

Jeff Weggen of Muscatine, Iowa, has an entirely different view. Weggen said his daughter, Sydney, had the vaccines about four years ago. Soon after, she began to lose weight, suffered back pain and became pale. Over a period of months she was hospitalized and saw specialists in state and out-of-state. She was eventually found to have a fungal infection and a large tissue mass in her chest.

Weggen eventually linked Sydney’s ongoing medical problems to Gardasil, he said. Online groups, other parents and the timeline of her vaccines and her illness helped lead him to this opinion, he said. An anti-Gardasil Facebook post introduced him to a doctor in Ohio who early this year generally confirmed Weggen’s suspicions.

Dr. Phillip DeMio of the Cleveland area said he has several patients he believes were sickened by Gardasil. DeMio, a general practitioner who said his practice focuses on chronically ill people, said some of his patients have been injured by other vaccines, too.

“These are challenging situations, no two ways about it,” he said. Most people have received a variety of vaccinations, he said, and he believes the aluminum in Gardasil and other vaccines can be a problem for some people.

He saw Sydney early this year. Based on the extensive testing that ruled out other diseases, the severity of her illness, the timing of vaccination and other factors, he said he believes “there’s a component of vaccine damage for her and for many of my patients.”

He said there are good reasons to have an adolescent receive Gardasil and mentioned the likelihood that some individuals will be sexually active. But it makes no sense to have a 9-year-old get it, he said. He said parents should be well-informed of the risks and benefits of Gardasil and other vaccines.

“I think people should have a choice,” he said. “I’m not saying I’m against the vaccine.”

The CDC sent a written statement saying that millions of doses of Gardasil have been administered.

Scientific studies have detected no link to “unusual or unexpected adverse reactions,” the CDC said.

Side effects can include pain from the shot and occasionally a patient might faint after any injectable vaccine, the CDC said. But “the benefits of vaccination far outweigh any risks.”

Rate of HPV-associated cancers on the rise in U.S., according to new CDC report

Author: Andrew J. Roth

Though the first preventive human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 10 years ago, the incidence of HPV-associated cancers is on the rise.

From 2008 to 2012, the number of HPV-associated cancers diagnosed per year increased by approximately 16 percent compared with the previous five-year period, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Nearly all sexually active individuals in the U.S. will get at least one type of HPV in their lifetime, making it the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the country. And though about 90 percent of HPV infections will clear a person’s system within two years, some infections persist and can cause cervical cancers and some types of vulvar, oropharyngeal, penile, rectal and cancers.

There are over 40 HPV types, and vaccines are available for HPV types 16 and 18 (which account for 63 percent of HPV-associated cancers), as well as for types 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 (which account for an additional 10 percent). Type 16 is the most likely to persist and develop into cancer.

In this new report, the CDC analyzed data from its own National Program of Cancer Registries as well as the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database. In total, 38,793 HPV-associated cancers (11.7 per 100,000 persons), on average, were diagnosed annually from 2008 to 2012 compared with 33,369 diagnoses (10.8 per 100,000 persons) from 2004 to 2008. Researchers then multiplied the number of cancers that could have been associated with HPV by the rate actually believed to be attributable to HPV, and found that an estimated 30,700 (79 percent) of the cancers could have been attributed to the virus.

The report highlights numerous challenges to controlling HPV-related cancers. First, not enough adolescents are receiving all three HPV vaccines. The CDC recommends that all males and females should start the HPV vaccine series at the age of 11 or 12 years. The CDC also notes that males can receive the series through age 21 and females can receive it through age 26.

According to this CDC report, though, in 2014, just 60 percent of females aged 13 to 17 received at least one dose, 50.3 percent received at least two doses and 39.7 percent received three doses. Among males, the rates were worse: 41.7 percent received at least one dose, 31.4 percent received at least two doses and 21.6 percent received three doses.

Additionally, differences exist between races. In the 2008 to 2012 study, rates of cervical cancer were higher among blacks compared with whites and higher among Hispanics compared with non-Hispanics. Rates of both vulvar and oropharyngeal cancers were lower, however, among blacks and Hispanics versus whites and non-Hispanics, respectively. Rates of anal cancer were lower among black women and Hispanics, but higher among black men, compared with their counterparts.

HPV-associated cancer rates also differed based on geographic location: Utah had the lowest rate (7.5 per 100,000 persons) while Kentucky had the highest rate (14.7 per 100,000). The study’s authors noted that most states with rates higher than the overall U.S. rate (11.7 per 100,000) were located in the South.

Study authors pointed out that most cervical cancers can be prevented by regularly screening women aged 21 to 65 for precancerous lesions, though there are no effective population-based screening tools for other HPV-associated cancers.

The authors also reviewed two challenges with the report itself. Though the CDC and SEER databases are reliable, the authors wrote, “no registry routinely collects or reports information on HPV DNA status in cancer tissue, so the HPV-attributable cancers are only estimates.” The authors also noted that race and ethnicity data came from medical records and may be inaccurate in a small number of cases.

HPV-related cancer Is ‘epidemic’—but few get vaccinated

Author: Michael Harthorne, Newser Staff

“Every parent should ask the question: If there was a vaccine I could give my child that would prevent him/her from developing six different cancers, would I give it to them?” Electra Paskett, co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at Ohio State University, tells CBS News. The answer appears to be no. According to NBC News, a CDC report released Thursday shows a 17% increase in HPV-related cancers between 2004 and 2012 to nearly 39,000 per year. Dr. Lois Ramondetta, an expert in gynecologic oncology, says it’s become an “epidemic” especially for men, in whom HPV can cause cancers of the mouth, tongue, and throat. HPV increases the risk of those cancers by at least seven times, and unlike with HPV-caused cervical cancer in women, there’s no screening for them.
The CDC report found 93% of all HPV-related cancers could be prevented with the currently available vaccine. That’s approximately 28,500 fewer cases of cancer every year, AFP reports. And yet in 2014, only 40% of teen girls and 22% of teen boys received the necessary three doses of the vaccine, which works best if administered before teens become sexually active. Paskett calls those numbers “extremely sad.” “We must change the perception of the HPV vaccine from something that prevents a sexually transmitted disease to a vaccine that prevents cancer,” she tells CBS. (Some British teens invented condoms that change color near HPV and other STDs.)

HPV vaccine important preventive tool for survivors of childhood cancer

Author: Ellie Leick

As childhood cancer survivors are at an increased risk of developing second cancers later in life, James Klosky recommends that this population receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) series of vaccines.

A survey of 679 survivors one to five years out of treatment was conducted to evaluate how many received the vaccine compared with their healthy peers. A great disparity was discovered, as survivors — all of whom were between age 13 and 26 — were less likely to receive the vaccine. Researchers also investigated the reasons why many survivors did not receive it.

Klosky, an associate member and director of psychological services in cancer survivorship at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, presented the findings from this research at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), a gathering of 30,000 oncology professionals in Chicago. CURE spoke with Klosky at the meeting to discuss the key takeaways and the importance of the HPV vaccine to survivors of childhood cancer.

Can you give an overview of the study and its purpose?
The HPV vaccine is the first vaccine that’s designed to prevent cancers. We are particularly interested in the application of this vaccine amongst survivors of childhood cancers, who are at increased risk for HPV-related cancers in young adulthood relative to their healthy peers.

On average, the onset of these cancers occur seven years earlier in survivors of childhood cancers compared to their healthy peers. Additionally, survivors of childhood cancer have an increased risk of acquiring a second cancer. Therefore, the application of this vaccine is very important. We at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital do everything we can to protect our survivors from second cancers, and the HPV vaccine is one mechanism we are able to utilize.

Why are second cancers more likely in survivors of childhood cancer?
As a general population, 80 percent of people who are sexually active will be exposed to HPV in their lifetime. For those of us who have a strong immune system, the virus will typically clear out of our systems in approximately two years. Often, there will not be any symptoms. However, for survivors of childhood cancers and other groups that have immune deficiencies, it appears they might be more likely for complications associated with HPV upon infection.

What did this study specifically find? What are the key takeaways?
This study compared survivors of childhood cancer with their peers in the U.S. We analyzed the rates of initiation of the HPV vaccine amongst survivors and then of the U.S. population, focusing on two different groups: those who are 13 to 17 years of age and those who are 18 to 26 years of age.

Within the 18 to 26 age group, the rates of the HPV vaccine initiation were essentially equivalent; 26 percent of survivors had initiated the vaccine whereas 24 percent in the general population had initiated it.

However, there were differences in the 13 to 17 age groups. Among survivors of childhood cancers, only 22 percent had initiated the vaccine compared with 42 percent of the general population.

It is important to note that the HPV vaccine is designed to be administered prior to sexual activity. It is important to get vaccinated as a young teenager because the HPV vaccine is protective, not therapeutic. Therefore, once a patient is exposed to the virus, there is not much we can do about it.

Among survivors of childhood cancers, were there predictors of not initiating the vaccine?
We found the most robust predictor was among survivors who stated their doctors had not recommended the vaccine. And essentially, one of the main messages here is that we really need our physicians to be recommending the vaccine because that should translate into a higher initiation rate.

Another strong influence against receiving the vaccine was hearing about it from a friend. Adolescents often talk about the negative aspects of the vaccine, such as the pain involved when receiving the vaccine and the fact that three vaccines are necessary to complete the protection. Hearing this does not encourage other adolescents to initiate the vaccine.

We also found those who are male and those who had never been sexually active are also more likely not to initiate the vaccine. That’s a bit concerning because although HPV is typically implicated in terms of cervical cancers and a lot of the gynecological-associated cancers, men can also have oropharyngeal cancers, anal cancers, penile cancers and other types of cancers within HPV ideology. Additionally, males are often the carriers.

Finally, those who do not feel receiving the vaccine makes you a responsible or good person are less likely to receive it.

What are the next steps for this project?
Overall, the lack of physician recommendation was most strongly associated with not initiating. Our next step in the research is to create intervention programs to get physicians to make clear recommendations with conviction and confidence to survivors of childhood cancer. This will hopefully translate into more survivors getting protected.

Is there ever a reason to refrain from receiving the HPV vaccine?
The indication of the vaccine is very broad. For survivors of childhood cancer who have had a particularly complex treatment history and are continuing to have severe late effects of childhood cancer, a conversation needs to happen between their oncologist, the family and the patient.

In terms of vaccine programs, they are designed as more of a public health tool; the vaccines should be safe for everyone. If there are any concerns about the vaccine, we want you to talk to your doctor.

Regardless of the direction of the effect, increasing these types of communications will hopefully translate to the best health care for our patients.

What are your hopes for this project?
If we are able to demonstrate the immunogenicity, safety and tolerability of the HPV vaccine among survivors of childhood cancer, we’ll have a platform for a vaccine program within this high-risk group. Protecting survivors from second cancers in any way we can is the ultimate goal. There’s not much I can do about patients’ genetics or other fixed factors, but getting the vaccine is something, behaviorally, I can influence. If I, my group or the consumers of this research have influenced conversations that translate into initiating and completing the three-vaccine series, then this research has been successful.

Frontline Cancer: vaccines for HPV near guarantee

Author: Dr. Scott Lippman

Dear Scott: “Our son, who is 25, went to the GP yesterday and his doc wasn’t sure about giving the Gardasil I had been bugging him to get. Didn’t you tell me about the benefits of the HPV vaccination?”

The note was from a friend. It was personal, but also a topic of wide public interest and one that remains much discussed among cancer researchers and physicians. That’s why I’m answering my friend here.

Roughly 12 percent of all human cancers worldwide — more than 1 million cases per year — are caused by viral infections (called oncoviruses) and attributed to a relatively small number of pathogens: human papilloma virus (HPV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Given the emphasis upon other causal factors of cancer, such as genetic mutations or environmental sources, it’s a statistic that’s not well known nor, I would argue, fully appreciated.

Human viral oncogenesis is complex, and only a small percentage of the infected individuals develop cancer, but that 12 percent translates into more than 500,000 lives lost each year to virus-caused malignancies. Many of those deaths are preventable because effective vaccines already exist for HPV and HBV. Right now. No future discoveries required.

I want to specifically talk about the HPV vaccine. Controversy has constrained its proven effectiveness as a public health tool, but if used as prescribed, the HPV vaccine could essentially eliminate cervical and other HPV-caused cancers. Infection with HPV is very common. It’s estimated that at least 80 million Americans are affected. HPV is actually a group of more than 200 related viruses. There is no cure for HPV, but the infection typically clears on its own without lingering effect.

Forty types of HPV are easily spread through direct sexual contact. They fall into two categories: Low-risk HPVs that do not cause cancer, but can cause skin warts on or around the genitals, anus, mouth or throat. And high-risk HPVs (mostly two strains, type 16 and type 18) that cause approximately 5 percent of all human cancers worldwide. High-risk HPV strains drive the rates of cervical (the leading cause of cancer deaths in women in many developing countries), anal and a dramatically increasing subset of oropharyngeal (the tonsil and parts of the throat and tongue) cancers among men in the United States and other developed countries.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved three vaccines for preventing HPV infection: Gardasil, Garadsil-9 and Cervarix. They have strong safety records and a near-guarantee of dramatically reducing the risk of infection. But they are not widely used. The HPV vaccination rate in the U.S. is just 36 percent for girls and 14 percent for boys (and even lower for Hispanics, blacks and the poor).

The chief reason, it has been argued, relates to the recommended age of vaccination: 11-12 years. Because cancer-causing HPV viruses are transmitted through sexual contact, the idea of vaccinating a young girl or boy as a preventive measure strikes many people (i.e. parents) as premature, unsettling or enabling. My friend and colleague, Howard Bailey, M.D., director of the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center and a national leader on this topic, believes this attitude costs lives. “We need to shift focus from behavior associated with infection to preventing major cancers,” he says.

There are other factors as well. For example, full vaccination requires three doses, so persistence is required. Safety concerns continue about the vaccine (perhaps part of a larger misplaced mistrust of vaccines in general). And there remains limited public understanding of HPV or HPV-related diseases, especially in men.

The reality is that these vaccines work best if they are given at an early age before exposure to HPV. However, as Howard explained, if this window is missed, the FDA includes indications where the recommendation rises to age 26, to get vaccinated for at least some cancer-causing strains of HPV. Howard recommends every young, unvaccinated adult receive at least the 9-valent HPV vaccine, “which can provide protection against five additional HPV types that cause cancer and are less common than types 16 and 18.” There is the potential for protection against HPV types that a person hasn’t yet been exposed to and if a person hasn’t been exposed to the common HPV types (6, 11, 16 and 18), it can provide protection against them as well.

In a recently published statement paper, the American Society of Clinical Oncology called for a broad, concerted effort by health care professionals and policymakers to increase awareness of the evidence and effectiveness of HPV vaccination. It should be routine. The public health benefit is obvious and indisputable. I completely agree.

Here’s a corollary to consider: Vaccines for HBV have been available for many years and are a routine part of pediatric immunizations in the United States. In the past, countries like Taiwan and Korea suffered endemic HBV infections and high rates of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) or liver cancer. In the 1980s, these countries implemented universal infant HBV vaccination policies that have resulted in a dramatic 80 percent decline in HBV infections, cases of hepatitis and, more importantly, reductions in HCC incidence and mortality.

Every day, you can read headlines about research to find new treatments and cures for the many diseases called cancer. Progress is painfully slow and uneven. We’ve been fighting this war for decades. Preventing cancer altogether is a better approach and with cancers caused by HPV, we have the right weapon already at hand. We just need to use it.