RPCI Receives Special Funding Aimed at Increasing HPV Vaccinations

One of 18 centers to lead effort toward greater protection against cancer-causing viruses
Thursday, October 9, 2014

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The National Cancer Institute has awarded Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) a new one-year, $150,000 supplemental grant as part of an effort to increase the number of adolescents — both girls and boys —receiving the HPV vaccine. The three-dose vaccine protects against infection with certain high-risk strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) that are responsible for most cases of cervical and anal cancers as well as many genital and head/neck cancers. RPCI is one of only 18 centers around the country that will be leading this national effort.

Public-health agencies and medical societies endorse HPV vaccination for all boys and girls at age 11-12 years, yet only about one-third of 13-to-17-year-old girls received all three recommended doses — considerably short of the 80% goal set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2020 report. Immunization rates for U.S. boys are even lower — just 7% of boys age 13 to 17 are fully vaccinated.

This grant will support the efforts of two staff members working within Roswell Park’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences. Field staff will include Frances Harfouche, MSW, Evaluation Coordinator, and Christy Widman, Cancer Control Coordinator. The project will be led by RPCI’s Martin C. Mahoney, MD, PhD, a primary-care physician and researcher in RPCI’s Population Sciences Program.

“We have a real opportunity to prevent thousands of cases of cancer in this country,” notes Dr. Mahoney, an expert on HPV and vaccines. “We see much more successful uptake — vaccination rates above 75% — with comparable adolescent vaccines like Tdap, for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, and the meningococcal vaccine. This important project is part of a strategic nationwide effort to identify and address existing barriers so that we can see similar compliance levels for HPV vaccination.”

The primary goals of this project include completing an environmental scan to identify and establish partnerships with relevant stakeholders such as local and regional health care plans, hospitals, pediatric practices and other medical groups that provide care to adolescents and teens, agencies, immunization coalitions, urgent-care centers, school nurses, Native American tribes, minority health coalitions, and colleges and universities. This effort will yield a compendium of information summarizing local/regional data, programs and resources focused on HPV vaccination and cataloging the challenges to HPV vaccination specific to the Western New York region.

“This NCI award once again demonstrates the nation’s confidence in Roswell Park Cancer Institute as a leader in cancer prevention and care,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “The best way to fight cancer is to prevent it from happening in the first place. This project aims to educate, raise awareness and better connect with the community toward the goal of saving lives.”

“This funding gives Roswell Park the opportunity and resources to be a key player in the nationwide effort to vaccinate more adolescents against HPV infections,” said acting New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “HPV and HPV-derived cancers threaten tens of thousands of people’s lives each year, and yet the vaccine remains vastly underutilized. Only through continued education and unwavering efforts to raise the vaccination rate among adolescents will we win the fight against HPV.”

Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center (NFMMC) has been a longtime partner to Roswell Park, working closely with the RPCI Office of Cancer Coalition Health Disparities and Dr. Mahoney as part of the Western New York Cancer Coalition (WNYC2) Center to Reduce Disparities. They will remain active in assisting with this project helping to create necessary links within the community and with NFMMC clinical staff.

“As a vested partner in the Western New York Center to Reduce Cancer Disparities, Memorial Medical Center is committed to improving the health of residents in Niagara County and, more specifically, Niagara Falls,” said NFMMC President & CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo. “This project has tremendous potential for understanding why more adolescents are not getting the HPV vaccine, and we wholeheartedly support this effort.”

Roswell Park Cancer Institute endorses the use of HPV vaccination to prevent HPV-related cancers. Through this project, Roswell Park will actively pursue collaborative processes that will result in a significantly increase in the use of this vaccine. The HPV vaccine has the potential to prevent substantial numbers of cervical, genital and anal cancers in both genders.

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The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1898, RPCI is one of thefirst cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org. Follow Roswell Park on Facebook and Twitter.

Media Contact: 

Annie Deck-Miller, Senior Media Relations Manager
716-845-8593; annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org