C. Kent Osborne, M.D.
C. Kent Osborne, M.D.

Recognizing a critical need to improve national vaccination rates for the human papillomavirus (HPV), Baylor College of Medicine has again united with each of the 69 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in issuing a joint statement in support of recently revised recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It is now easier than ever to get vaccinated against HPV and other associated cancers, with two doses as opposed to three. This is an important initiative the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center is proud to support along with the nation’s other NCI-designated cancer centers,” said Dr. Kent Osborne, director of the Duncan Cancer Center. “Within the Duncan Cancer Center, we are not only dedicated to improving uptake numbers of the HPV vaccine on the clinical side, but our Office of Outreach and Health Disparities visits Houston’s high-risk communities, educating the public about the importance and benefits of the vaccine.”

According to the CDC, incidence rates of HPV-associated cancers have continued to rise, with approximately 39,000 new HPV-associated cancers now diagnosed each year in the United States. Although HPV vaccines can prevent the majority of cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat) and other genital cancers, vaccination rates remain low across the U.S., with just 41.9 percent of girls and 28.1 percent of boys completing the recommend vaccine series.

The new guidelines from the CDC recommend that children aged 11 to 12 should receive two doses of the HPV vaccine at least six months apart. Adolescents and young adults older than 15 should continue to complete the three-dose series.

“We are encouraged by the increasing number of HPV vaccines administered in the last year, but are hoping to see that number continue to grow. This vaccine is vital in reducing the cases of HPV and related cancers, and the updated joint statement reflects the dedication the nation’s top cancer centers and physicians share in improving vaccination rates,” said Dr. Matthew Anderson, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor.

Research shows there are a number of barriers to overcome to improve vaccination rates, including a lack of strong recommendations from physicians and parents not understanding that this vaccine protects against several types of cancer.

In an effort to overcome these barriers, NCI-designated cancer centers have organized a continuing series of national summits to share new research, discuss best practices and identify collective action toward improving vaccination rates.

The original joint statement, published in January 2016, was the major recommendation from a summit hosted in Houston last November, which brought together experts from the NCI, CDC, American Cancer Society and more than half of the NCI-designated cancer centers. 

The updated statement is the result of discussions from the most recent summit, hosted this summer in Ohio. Nearly 150 experts from across the country gathered to present research updates and plan future collaborative actions across NCI-designated cancer centers.

“The Office of Outreach and Health Disparities at Baylor is dedicated to educating the public about breast, cervical and colorectal cancers, and part of those initiatives is encouraging the uptake of the HPV vaccine among our communities,” said Dr. Maria Jibaja-Weiss, director of the office. “We have developed a HPV-specific program, including a monologue performance and detailed educational materials to engage with the public and educate them about these cancers in a new, personal way.”