Archive for March, 2010

29 Mar

Another Argument Supporting Male Vaccination Against HPV

Rise in oral cancer linked to HPV

Posted by Tiffany O’Callaghan Friday, March 26, 2010 at 12:58 pm

The Human papillomavirus Image: Science VU/NCI/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis
According to a commentary published this week in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), despite a slight overall decrease in head and neck cancers worldwide, there has been a recent surge in one particular form of the disease—oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma—that may be due to the spread of the human papillomavirus (HPV) through oral sex. Dr. Hisham Mehanna, director of the Institute of Head and Neck Studies and Education at University Hospital in Coventry, as well as other cancer specialists, points to data showing that, in the U.S., there was little change in the incidence of this form of mouth cancer from 1975–1999, but between 1999 and 2006, cases of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma grew by 22%. Among men in the U.K., there was a 51% increase in this form of mouth cancer between 1989 and 2006.

Researchers suggest that this growing form of mouth cancer is likely due to sexual transmission of HPV, pointing to data from a recent analysis of more than 11,0000 people showing that individuals with six or more sexual partners had a 25% higher risk for developing the disease. Additionally, the risk for this type of mouth cancer was nearly three times higher in individuals with four or more oral sex partners. As the authors sum up: “Sexual transmission of HPV—primarily through orogenital intercourse might be the reason for the increase in incidence of HPV related oropharyngeal carcinoma.”

Compared with other forms of mouth cancers—mostly caused by long-term tobacco and alcohol use—which often impact older patients and prove deadly within one to two years of diagnosis, if caught early, this HPV-related form of mouth cancer has significantly higher survival rates, especially among non-smokers. (The reasons for this difference aren’t entirely clear, but the researchers speculate that it may have to do with an increased immune response to HPV, or higher sensitivity to radiation therapy documented in previous study.)

Yet, even though the HPV-related form of mouth cancer tends to impact younger people and often has a better prognosis than other forms of the disease, researchers question whether public health initiatives currently cast a wide enough net to prevent its spread. A study published last fall in BMJ suggested that HPV vaccination for boys wasn’t cost-effective, or, as the researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health phrased it: “… including boys in an HPV vaccination programme [sic] generally exceeds conventional thresholds of good value for money.” Mehanna and colleagues question the findings of that study, writing that “the low incidence of HPV related oropharyngeal carcinoma in that study has led to concern because the recent rapid rise in HPV related oropharyngeal carcinoma may alter the cost effectiveness of vaccinating boys before they become sexually active.”

The next step in research is to determine how treatment of HPV-related oropharyngeal carcinoma may differ from treatments for other types of head and neck cancer, the authors conclude, suggesting that patients with HPV-related forms of the disease should be encouraged to enroll in clinical trials designed to improve treatment, and tailor it to this specific form of the disease.

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26 Mar


By NASTASYA TAY (AP) – 1 day ago

JOHANNESBURG — Thousands of health workers will help hand out 2.5 billion condoms and test 15 million people for HIV as part of the world’s largest campaign in the country hardest hit by the virus, the health minister said Thursday.

After years of official denial and delay, South Africa’s government last year embarked on an anti-AIDS drive, vowing to halve new infections and ensure that 80 percent of those who need them have access to AIDS drugs by 2011.

Health Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi has asked 9,000 retired South African doctors and health workers to help with testing and counseling during the $190 million campaign. He also has asked universities to lend their final-year medical students during the campaign’s first week.

Every person receiving HIV counseling and testing will receive 100 male condoms each, and 1 billion others will be distributed to public facilities, including FIFA-accredited hotels for football fans during the upcoming World Cup tournament, Motsoaledi said.

The campaign being launched April 15 also will treat rape victims and encourage male circumcision as a measure to prevent the virus that causes AIDS.

The testing campaign hopes to “bring HIV out of the shadows and into the mainstream, helping to erode some of the stigma around the disease”, said Mark Heywood of the South African National AIDS Council, the government-supported coalition behind the campaign.

Some 500 general practitioners already have pledged to provide free testing at their practices. Testing will take place at all government hospitals, clinics, some universities and pharmacies, as well as in mobile units sent to remote rural areas.

South Africa, a nation of about 50 million, has an estimated 5.7 million people infected with HIV, more than any other country.

President Jacob Zuma has been applauded for turning around AIDS policies after President Thabo Mbeki’s stance was blamed for hundreds of thousands of premature deaths. Mbeki questioned whether HIV caused AIDS and his health minister distrusted drugs developed to keep patients alive, instead promoting garlic and beet treatments.

In contrast, Zuma has called for earlier and expanded treatment for HIV-positive South Africans, and has urged people to get tested for HIV.

Zuma’s turnaround is all the more remarkable because of his personal history. In 2006, Zuma was ridiculed after he testified while being tried on charges of raping an HIV-positive woman that he took a shower to lower the risk of AIDS. He was acquitted of rape.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.