HPV Vaccine Success Spurs Enthusiasm About Cancer Elimination, but True Eradication Requires Progress on Three Pillars

Only nine months after launch, the number of partners in the Global HPV Consortium is 2.5 times larger than our founding cohort.

This dramatic growth reflects the excitement around mounting science supporting the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine in preventing cervical and other HPV-related cancers. Evidence including the recent HPV abstract presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference and the study out of Scotland in January showing no cases of cervical cancer in women who were vaccinated against HPV at age 12 or 13 are also moving more and more countries to add HPV immunization to their schedules and funding the efforts.

As I recently discussed with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of the World Trade Organization on an episode of Sabin’s “Getting to Zero” webcast, cervical cancer elimination makes economic sense for high-, middle- and low-income countries.

True cervical cancer elimination, however, rests on two other pillars: screening and treatment of cervical dysplasia. Women who have had the HPV vaccine still must be screened, and screening without treatment options is at best useless and at worst extended anguish for any woman with an abnormal screen. This is why Consortium partners such as CAPED India, which focuses on screening and treatment, are such vital partners in the global effort to eliminate cervical cancer.

In the new episode of “Getting to Zero” premiering this Thursday, I speak with Mridu Gupta, the CEO of CAPED. She tells me joining the Global HPV Consortium sparked new collaborations and connections that are accelerating CAPED’s efforts, and inspiring the extensive work needed to truly eliminate cervical cancer in India. The growing focus on the upcoming HPV vaccine rollout there, she says, gives those working locally on elimination real hope of making a dent in the 77,000 annual deaths in India from cervical cancer.

Evaluating what it will take to truly eliminate cervical cancer starts with a holistic focus on local context and needs through the lens of all three pillars.