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The Vaccine That Prevents Cancer

Human papillomavirus vaccines can help prevent cancer, but uptake still lags.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is the major risk factor for invasive cervical carcinoma and has been linked to 15 different cancers overall.

Current HPV vaccines protect against either 2, 4, or 9 types of HPV. According to the FDA, a trio of HPV vaccines—9-valent HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9, 9vHPV), quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil, 4vHPV), and bivalent HPV vaccine (Cervarix, 2vHPV)—have been licensed with all 3 vaccines protecting against the HPV types, 16 and 18, that cause most HPV cancers.

A new review1 by doctors at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, Datta Meghe Institute of Medical Sciences, Wardha, India, looked at the topic and addressed how HPV and its associated pathologies need to remain a top priority in public health.

After all, the best strategy to decrease the incidence of cervical cancer is through the administration of HPV vaccines along with routine cervical screening.

However, not everyone is aware of the dangers of HPV. According to a recent survey, cited by the authors, 72% of educated urban men and women in the middle or upper socioeconomic levels, who had at least one female child, had never heard of HPV. However, after reading a brief information sheet with information on the HPV vaccine, 80% of parents stated they would vaccinate their daughters, even though only 46% of parents intended to protect their girls against sexually transmitted infections.

The authors noted that cervical cancer is among the most frequent cancers in women. However, thanks to improved medical care and more stringent screening, the mortality rate from cervical cancer has declined considerable in the last 4 decades.

“Financial issues are the main barrier to HPV vaccination,” the authors noted. “The framework for behavioral and social drivers of vaccination, which includes practical concerns, motivation, social processes, thoughts, and feelings, is widely used to uncover important aspects linked with HPV vaccination.”

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For instance, in their home country of India, asymptomatic female screening is seldom done. That’s why the authors champion immunization against HPV as a promising method of preventing cervical cancer. Since 2007, Gardasil, Cervarix, Gardasil 9, and Cecolin have been approved for use against HPV infection in India. Therefore, for nations such as India, HPV vaccinations can be a game-changer for cancer prevention.

“The dissemination of the vaccine to underdeveloped nations has been uneven, even though vaccination with Cervarix and now, Gardasil, has demonstrated its effectiveness in the immunoprevention of cervical cancer,” the authors wrote. “Vaccine uptake has encountered several difficulties, even in nations where the vaccine is widely available.”

Though the HPV vaccine is readily available, the findings of the review revealed that parents had a limited grasp of the health issues linked to HPV infection, its prevention, and modes of transmission. However, given the wide range and seriousness of illnesses brought on by infection, addressing HPV and its associated pathologies should remain a top priority in public health according to the researchers.

“The HPV vaccine's untapped potential to reduce cancer risks, costs, and psychological suffering stands out, as it is the only vaccine that can prevent cancer,” the authors concluded. “Partnerships must be made with international businesses that make vaccines, diagnostic devices, and cancer therapies in the private sector as part of an immediate, coordinated effort. This is necessary to enable efficient intervention and stop the almost 350,000 deaths from cervical cancer predicted for 2021 and beyond.”

Reference

1. Pathak P, Pajai S, Kesharwani H. A Review on the use of the HPV vaccine in the prevention of cervical cancer. Cureus. 2022 Sep 2;14(9):e28710. doi: 10.7759/cureus.28710.


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