$1.8 Million Granted to Yale School of Public Health to Study Effectiveness of HPV Vaccine

August 31, 2017

A $1.8 million National Institutes of Health grant will help researchers at the Yale School of Public Health shed light on the real-world effectiveness of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Results of this study can ultimately help to maximize the vaccine’s impact on several types of cancer.

Since its introduction in 2006, the vaccine has led to reductions in precancerous high-grade cervical lesions that are caused by HPV. While the vaccine has made great strides against preventing these lesions that may lead to cervical cancer, more needs to be done to understand if it is reaching its full potential. 

With the four-year NIH grant, Linda Niccolai, Ph.D., professor and director of the HPV Working Group at Yale, will lead a study that examines the vaccine’s effectiveness, which likely varies from its performance in the controlled clinical trials conducted before the vaccine was approved for widespread use. 

This study, beginning this month, will provide evidence-based information on how the timing at which the HPV vaccine is administered can impact its effectiveness. The HPV vaccine is recommended to be given at ages 11 or 12 years, and it must be administered before teens become sexually active. If the vaccine is given after the onset of sexual activity, it may be too late to prevent the infections. Some parents have been unsure about vaccinating children at the age 11 of 12 against a sexually transmitted disease, and many are choosing to delay the vaccine.

“Unfortunately, the tendency for clinicians and parents to delay vaccination for their patients and their children is leaving many adolescents vulnerable to infections that can cause cancer later in life,” said Niccolai. “It is our hope that this study will provide the evidence to encourage greater uptake of the vaccine at the recommended age of 11 years.” 

This study will compare the HPV vaccination histories, including age at vaccination, obtained from interviews and medical record reviews, of women with high-grade cervical lesions and women without lesions. The results have the potential to help guide new strategies to maximize the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine. Demonstrating the vaccine’s capacity to prevent precancerous lesions when given at the recommended ages of 11 or 12 years and ultimately cervical cancer can give caregivers the tools they need to ensure that as many girls as possible receive the HPV vaccine in a timely fashion. It also has the potential to increase acceptance by parents that children should receive this vaccine before they reach the age by which they might be exposed through sexually activity. 

Other investigators on the project at Yale School of Medicine include Professor Eugene Shapiro, M.D., Carlos Oliveira, M.D., and Sangini Sheth, M.D.

Submitted by Elisabeth Reitman on August 31, 2017