HPV Vaccines That Work in U.S. Women May Miss the Target in Women From Other Countries

A research team at Dartmouth’s and Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center has found that the same vaccination programs that target human papillomavirus (hrHPV) strains in the United States may not be as effective in protecting other populations of women from the disease. Years of work in Honduras, led by Gregory J. Tsongalis, PhD, has shown a very different prevalence of hrHPV there compared to the U.S. The majority of cervical cancers are caused by persistent infection with hrHPV with different vaccines available to protect against HPV infection. These findings, “HPV, Vaccines, and Cervical Cancer in a Low- and Middle-Income Country” are newly published in Current Problems in Cancer.

“After testing 2,645 women from multiple locations in Honduras for types of hrHPV and finding the prevalence of virus types to be quite different from those in the U.S., we asked what vaccine would be the most efficacious for the local situation, and which hrHPV types are most commonly found in cervical cancer tissues from Honduran women,” says Tsongalis. “The divalent vaccine against two HPV types and quadrivalent vaccine against four HPV types would only protect approximately half of women infected with this virus in Honduras. The most expensive vaccine would protect the majority of women, however many vaccination programs in low- and middle-income countries use the less costly vaccine, and these vaccines are not providing adequate protection.”

Appropriately vaccinating against HPV would help reduce the incidence of cervical cancer, however Tsongalis cautions that it’s important to understand what it is that’s being vaccinated against.

The team’s next steps are to continue to study prevalence of hrHPV in Honduran women as well as to do hrHPV typing on cervical tumors from other non-U.S. locations to determine which viral types are present in the cervical tumor tissue. “We are also investigating opportunities to study the use of the vaccine as a therapeutic,” notes Tsongalis.

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Gregory Tsongalis, PhD, HCLD, CC, is a Professor and Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, as well as Director of Clinical Genomics and Advanced Technology and member of the Cancer Biology and Therapeutics Research Program at Dartmouth’s and Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center. His research interests include development of advanced diagnostic technologies and disease biomarker discovery.

About Norris Cotton Cancer Center: Norris Cotton Cancer Center, located on the campus of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH, combines advanced cancer research at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine in Hanover, NH with the highest level of high-quality, innovative, personalized, and compassionate patient-centered cancer care at DHMC, as well as at regional, multi-disciplinary locations and partner hospitals throughout NH and VT,. NCCC is one of only 51 centers nationwide to earn the National Cancer Institute’s prestigious “Comprehensive Cancer Center” designation, the result of an outstanding collaboration between DHMC, New Hampshire’s only academic medical center, and Dartmouth College. Now entering its fifth decade, NCCC remains committed to excellence, outreach and education, and strives to prevent and cure cancer, enhance survivorship and to promote cancer health equity through its pioneering interdisciplinary research. Each year the NCCC schedules 61,000 appointments seeing nearly 4,000 newly diagnosed patients, and currently offers its patients more than 100 active clinical trials.