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Roswell Park gets grant to promote HPV vaccinations

The National Cancer Institute has awarded Roswell Park Cancer Institute a one-year, $150,000 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. Roswell Park is one of 18 centers across the country that will lead this national effort.

Public health agencies and medical societies endorse HPV vaccination for all boys and girls at ages 11 to 12, yet only about one-third of 13- to 17-year-old girls received all three recommended doses; just 7 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 are fully vaccinated.

The grant will support efforts of two staff members to boost those percentages: social worker Frances Harfouche, evaluation coordinator, and Christy Widman, cancer control coordinator of Roswell Park’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences; Dr. Martin C. Mahoney, a primary-care physician and researcher in the Sciences Program, will lead the effort.

“We have a real opportunity to prevent thousands of cases of cancer in this country,” said Mahoney, an expert on HPV and vaccines. “We see much more successful uptake – vaccination rates above 75 percent – 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.”