EU cancer group backs call to eliminate HPV-related cancers
The European Cancer Summit in Brussels has unanimously endorsed a resolution aimed at eradicating the virus that causes cervical cancer.
The resolution, prepared by the European CanCer Organisation (ECCO) and several of its member societies also includes an action plan on vaccinating, screening and the early diagnosis of human papillomavirus (HPV) the infection responsible for cervical cancer and other diseases.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cervical cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer.
Cervical cancer currently has a 50 percent mortality rate and globally one woman dies from the disease every two minutes. Eradicating HPV would end the estimated quarter of a million deaths worldwide every year from cervical cancer as well as the 100,000 deaths each year from other cancers caused by HPV infection.
Addressing participants at the ECCO summit in Brussels last Thursday, Prof. Murat Gultekin from the European Society of Gynaecological Oncology (ESGO) explained that globally half a million new cervical cancer cases were diagnosed every year.
Gultekin made the case for eradicating cervical cancer through a combined strategy based on the gender-neutral vaccination of girls and boys and adult HPV screening programmes, a strategy that he argued had been successfully tested in his home country, Turkey.
Unveiling the resolution, Professor Daniel Kelly - ECCO Board member and past president of the European Oncology Nursing Society (EONS) - said, “It’s clear that there is a lot of evidence out there about the efficacy and potential of vaccination”.
“Elimination is possible with the right infrastructure. This is something that we can prevent, so we need to get the message out there.”
Australia was the first country in the world to introduce a national HPV-based vaccination programme and was also the first country to introduce HPV-based screening.
During a short video segment, Prof. Karen Canfell, research director at the New South Wales Cancer Council, explained that Australia was looking at the potential of eliminating cervical cancer, but that “the real challenge is to deliver these innovations where they are needed the most to help protect against the 600,000 cases happening every year”.
“HPV elimination is possible with the right infrastructure. This is something that we can prevent, so we need to get the message out there” Professor Daniel Kelly - ECCO Board member and past president of the European Oncology Nursing Society (EONS)
Ian Frazer, professor of medicine at the University of Queensland, explained that “The really good news is that this virus only affects humans and therefore if we have a successful immunisation programme, we could not only prevent the cancers but eventually eliminate the virus entirely. “
The challenge, warned Frazer, was that achieving universal immunisation would need a global approach.
Unveiling the new resolution, Kelly told participants that it was time to “harness the vision of eliminating HPV-related cancers in Europe”.
The resolution states, “By 2030, effective strategies to eliminate cancers caused by HPV as a public health problem should be implemented in all European countries.”
Kelly said the resolution was “intended to be a bit of a ‘catch all’, but also something that we can use and measure”. Alongside the resolution are a series of recommended actions aimed at facilitating the resolution, including a call by 2025, for all European national cancer plans to include actions to deliver the HPV vaccination.
Further actions include having these vaccination programmes up and running across Europe By 2030.
“We would like to see and expect gender-neutral vaccination to be available, but that will take political will and investment. We would also like 90 percent of adolescents to have access to vaccination by 2030”.
Another action calls for at least 70 percent of women in Europe to have been screened for cervical cancer with an appropriate high-precision HPV test.
“There’s no good reason why that should not be possible. Coverage should be reached at minimum by 35-45 years of age and should be part of a national programme,” said Kelly.
“We need to think about ways we can do this. Additionally as an organisation ECCO can work with our colleagues to increase overall awareness of this problem. What we require now is momentum and political leadership. We need to take this forward.”
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