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July 19, 2013

Vaccine to Prevent Throat Cancer

Spread through oral sex, it is well established that human papilloma virus (HPV) types 16 and 18 cause the vast majority of throat cancer especially in men... even more than smoking and drinking alcohol. What was not known, but suspected, was whether in BOTH men and women the HPV vaccine Cervarix (made by GSK) or Gardasil (made by Merck) would help prevent throat cancer as effectively as cervical cancer for which it is FDA approved for.

At least for the vaccine Cervarix, a randomized, control, double-blinded, prospective study has shown that it highly protects individuals from HPV 16 and 18 infection in the mouth/throat. The vaccine efficacy was calculated to be 93.3%. The big assumption being that reduced oral HPV 16/18 would lead to a decreased risk of throat cancer.

It is for these reasons that BOTH boys and girls are encouraged to get the HPV vaccine. We are talking about protecting our sons and daughters from getting throat and cervical CANCER later in life.


To be clear, more study is needed to really PROVE that such vaccines prevent throat cancer. For full disclosure, the weaknesses of this current study are as follows:

• It was performed only in women (the study would need to be replicated in males)
• The study lasted only 4 years... the question is whether life-long protection is present or will booster shots be needed?
• Does Gardasil also work for oral HPV 16/18?
• Does reduced HPV 16/18 presence in spit actually translate to decreased risk of throat cancer
• It is suspected that vaginal secretions carry a higher HPV viral load than the penis leading to a higher risk of throat cancer in men performing oral sex on infected women. As such, the other questions that need to be answered is whether such vaccines will:
     • Prevent a vaccinated woman from giving HPV to the man as well as
     • Prevent an infected woman to actually infect a vaccinated man?
     • Or, does BOTH partners need to be vaccinated to prevent HPV throat cancer?

It is truly an exciting time when vaccines can be given to prevent not only infections like mumps or shingles, but also cancer!

Of note there are currently 3 FDA approved HPV vaccines:

• The bivalent HPV vaccine (Cervarix) which addresses HPV 16 and 18;
• The quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil) which prevents four HPV types: HPV 16 and 18, as well as HPV 6 and 11;
• And finally Gardasil 9 which prevents 9 HPV types: 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.


Source:
HPV Vaccine Found to Help With Cancers of Throat. NYT 7/18/13

Reference:
Reduced Prevalence of Oral Human Papillomavirus (HPV) 4 Years after Bivalent HPV Vaccination in a Randomized Clinical Trial in Costa Rica. PLOS One
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

1 comment:

  1. I went through your Post came across to know the causes of throat cancer and how to prevent the disease,Its was nice to know that their are vacccine to prevent throat cancer.I would personally recommend people to go through these blogs and have an information,which would really help them in having some good ideas or knowledge about diseases and take an effective measure to overcome them.Thanks for sharing..

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