Jan 10, 2017 10:05 PM


teenage boy receiving a vaccine from a female nurse

SALT LAKE CITY ― Recognizing a critical need to improve national vaccination rates for human papillomavirus (HPV), Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah has united with each of the 69 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers in support of recently revised recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

 “This joint statement from the nation’s top cancer centers recognizes low rates of HPV vaccination as a serious public health issue,” says Mary Beckerle, PhD, CEO and Director of HCI. “We are excited to collaborate with our peers to advocate for widespread HPV vaccination in our community.”

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 recommended vaccine series.

“Utah is unique because we have one of the lowest HPV vaccination rates in the U.S.,” says Deanna Kepka, PhD, MPH, and HCI investigator. “This is often due to a lack of strong recommendations from providers, and parents not understanding that this vaccine protects against several types of cancer.”  

Since 2014 Kepka has led the Intermountain West HPV Vaccination Coalition, which brings together immunization program representatives with cancer control, pediatric, and primary care specialists as well as parents and community members who share the common goal of improving HPV vaccination rates. There are currently more than 300 coalition members from different states across the western U.S., including Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

“HPV vaccination is cancer prevention,” says Kepka. “It is our best defense in stopping HPV infection in our youth and preventing HPV-related cancers in our communities. We ask health care providers to join forces to educate parents, guardians, and colleagues about the importance and benefits of HPV vaccination.”

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 have been inspired by the White House Cancer Moonshot to work together in eliminating cancer,” says Electra Paskett, PhD, co-leader of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) Cancer Control Research Program. “Improving HPV vaccination is an example of an evidence-based prevention strategy we can implement today to save thousands of lives in the future.”

The NCI-designated cancer centers’ joint statement is the result of discussions from the most recent summit, hosted this summer by The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. Nearly 150 experts from across the country gathered in Columbus to present research updates and plan future collaborative actions across NCI-designated cancer centers.

Media Contact

Heather Simonsen
Public Relations – Huntsman Cancer Institute
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801 581-3194

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About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah is the official cancer center of Utah and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West. The campus includes a state-of-the-art cancer specialty hospital and two buildings dedicated to cancer research. Huntsman Cancer Institute provides patient care, cancer screening, and education at community clinics and affiliate hospitals throughout the Mountain West. It is consistently recognized among the best cancer hospitals in the country by U.S. News and World Report. The region’s first proton therapy center opened in 2021 and a major hospital expansion is underway. Huntsman Cancer Institute is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment for staff, students, patients, and communities. Advancing cancer research discoveries and treatments to meet the needs of patients who live far away from a major medical center is a unique focus. More genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center, including genes responsible for breast, ovarian, colon, head and neck cancers, and melanoma. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.

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