In 2030, it is estimated that nearly 443,000 people will die from cervical cancer. However, cervical cancers, nearly all of which are caused by HPV, can be eliminated globally with vaccination. Why hasn’t this disease been eliminated yet?
To answer this question, AvaMedDx and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) hosted a Congressional Briefing entitled “Accelerating Global Elimination of Cervical Cancer: A Call to Action” on February 14, 2019.
The event featured a panel that included Ambassador Sally Cowal, Senior Vice President of Global Cancer Control for the American Cancer Society, who spoke on how cervical cancer is affecting women globally. She reported that cervical cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for women in 43 countries, and disproportionately affects women in low and middle income countries, as well as women living in low and middle income areas of the United States. The majority of these deaths occur in women in their 30s and 40s, which can have dramatic community and economic impacts. She discussed the recently launched global campaign set to improve the percentage of teenagers who have received the full HPV vaccine treatment stressing that the vaccine is safe and effective with vaccine services in place to leverage.
The panel also included Nicolas Wentzensen, MD, PhD, Deputy Branch Chief and Senior Investigator for the National Cancer Institute, who presented on how the NIH is using the Cancer Moonshoot funding to treat and prevent cervical cancer. He noted that different areas have specific needs that must be addressed in order to be effective. Therefore, the focus must be on improving the efficiency of risk screening and management in areas with a high level of resources, as well as developing single visit screen-and-treat programs in low resource areas, which minimize the time to treatment as well as the burden of seeking care.
Thierry Bernard, MD, PhD, Senior Vice President of Molecular Diagnostics Business Area for QIAGEN, presented the steps QIAGEN has taken to address the lack of routine testing in developing countries while remaining culturally sensitive and adapting to low resource testing centers. In coordination with PATH and with funding by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, QIAGEN developed careHPV, a test with minimal requirements for operating conditions, requiring no scientific training to conduct. He noted that just because this test was created with developing counties in mind, in no way is it a low quality test, as a lack of testing is a worldwide issue.
John Varallo, MD, MPH, FACOG, Global Director for Safe Surgery and Technical Advisor for Cervical Cancer Prevention for Jhpiego, noted the importance of linking screening and treatment, as well as the ethical obligations medical centers have to provide these services. He stated that Jhpiego has been developing a self-collection test, which can be done at home. This will reduce the number of physician visits, minimize patient discomfort, and has had remarkable participation rates to date.
William R. Steiger, Chief of Staff for the U.S. Agency for International Development noted that although USAID has been devoting their own funding towards programs controlling cervical cancer, there is a mismatch between available funding and the current level of need. He highlighted reasons why an inclusive, globally focused cervical cancer control program is necessary, including how it can empower women to take control of their health. Looking toward the future, he noted that we all can learn more about cervical cancer and discuss our findings with peers. To create the most efficient system possible we must allow for flexibility in the budget to foster integrative programs and continue to conduct research.