University of Cambridge > > Lady Margaret Lectures > Preventing cancer with vaccines: progress in the global control of cancer

Preventing cancer with vaccines: progress in the global control of cancer

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The cancer control community is largely unaware of great advances in the control of major human cancers with vaccines, including the dramatic control of hepatocellular (liver) cancer with hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccine, now used routinely in more than 90% of countries. The biotechnology revolution has given us a new generation of highly effective vaccines against major global killers, global funding for immunization is orders of magnitude higher than ever before, and the vaccine delivery infrastructure has improved very significantly even in the poorest countries. Liver cancer is the greatest cause of cancer deaths in men of sub-Saharan Africa and much of Asia. Even in highly endemic countries such as China, the prevalence of HB surface antigen carriers has fallen from 10% to 1%-2% in immunized cohorts of children, and liver cancer has already fallen dramatically in Taiwanese children. The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (now called the GAVI Alliance) has greatly expedited this success by providing HBV vaccine free for five years in most of the world’s 72 poorest countries. HBV vaccination can serve as a model for the global control of human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cervical and other cancers with HPV vaccines. Cervical cancer is the greatest cause of cancer death in women in many developing countries; HPV vaccines are highly effective in preventing HPV infection and precancerous lesions in women, and the quadrivalent vaccine also prevents genital warts in men and women and precancerous anal lesions in men. HPV is causing a growing proportion of oropharyngeal cancers, and HPV -related noncervical cancers (penile, anal, and oropharyngeal) may exceed the incidence of cervical cancer within a decade in industrial countries, where cervical screening is effective, causing reevaluation of male HPV immunization. In developing countries, few women are screened for cervical precancerous lesions, making immunization even more important. Currently, 26 primarily industrial countries routinely immunize girls with HPV vaccine, and GAVI will begin to accept applications in 2012 to fund vaccine in developing countries that can deliver the vaccine and if GAVI can negotiate an acceptable price (one manufacturer has already offered a price of $5 per dose).

This talk is part of the Lady Margaret Lectures series.

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