Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center to Play Lead Role in Collaborative Effort to End Preventable Disease That Kills Thousands of Women Worldwide

November 18, 2021 – Recognizing the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center’s enduring commitment to addressing the inequalities that perpetuate cervical cancer in South Florida and beyond, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday designated the institution of the University of Miami as the first WHO collaborating center for the elimination of cervical cancer.

Sylvester’s key role was announced at a virtual press conference, chaired by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Ph.D., and Deputy Director-General Princess Nothemba Simelela, MD, who commemorated the first anniversary of the global movement launched by the WHO on November 17 to eliminate cervical cancer. Although preventable and curable, the disease still kills more than 300,000 women worldwide who generally do not have access to vaccines, screening tests and treatments that would prevent, detect or cure the disease in its early stages.

“The world is united to end cervical cancer, and the University of Miami is extremely proud to officially play a leadership role in this ambitious and essential endeavor,” said President Julio Frenk, MD , MPH, Ph.D. “From the crossroads of Latin America and the Caribbean to the persistence of disparities in the world, we are honored to expand our collaborations to fight a cancer that humanity already has the tools to eliminate. . “

Although cervical cancer disproportionately affects women in low- and middle-income countries, Stephen D. Nimer, MD, director of Sylvester, noted that rates remain unacceptably high in marginalized communities across United States. This includes pockets of Miami, where the multi-pronged approaches Sylvester has developed with local partners are slowly breaking down barriers to prevention, detection and treatment.

“For years, we have worked diligently with our community partners and the WHO to create new outreach programs that raise awareness and provide testing opportunities in marginalized communities who bear the heaviest burden of this preventable disease,” said Dr Nimer said. “We are honored to be part of the WHO initiative to find more solutions that will eliminate cervical cancer in our hemisphere and around the world.”

A global strategy

As a collaborating center, Sylvester will work closely with the Pan American Health Organization, WHO’s regional office for the Americas, to identify practices that will enable girls born today to live in a world free of cancers caused by one of the risk strains of the ubiquitous human papillomavirus (HPV). The 194 member countries of the World Health Assembly adopted this vision in August 2020 by adopting a global strategy to accelerate the elimination of cervical cancer – which grows silently over the years – by reaching three key goals by 2030.

Known as the 90-70-90 goals, the targets call for 90% of all girls to be fully immunized with the HPV vaccine by the age of 15; 70% of all women should be screened with a high performance HPV test before the age of 35, then again at 45; and 90% of all women with precancer or cervical disease should be treated, and 90% of all women with advanced cancer should receive palliative care and management .

“The collaborating center will provide important opportunities to share the lessons that organizations and academic institutions have learned while working independently to address inequalities in cervical cancer,” said Erin Kobetz, Ph. D., MPH, Sylvester’s Associate Director for Population Sciences and Cancer. disparity and vice-rector for research and scholarship at the University. “It will be a platform for true two-way engagement to deliver sustainable and scalable solutions that fill the gaps in cervical cancer vaccination, screening and treatment. So by 2030 we have really accelerated the promise to achieve elimination. “

Local awareness

To help raise awareness among locals about the preventable global and local health problem, Hard Rock Stadium, LoanDepot Park, and the Miami-Dade County Courthouse will join the University and the Jackson Health System on Wednesday evening to light up fountains. , facades, panels and passages in teal, the color of cervical cancer awareness. Then, Thursday night, the Miami Hurricanes women’s basketball team will bow before facing Florida Atlantic University at the Watsco Center. Their stylish “Fight” t-shirts will inspire the wider community to be part of the solution to ending cervical cancer, a goal that HPV vaccines and DNA testing have helped achieve in the world. rich countries.

Since the HPV vaccine was introduced in the United States in 2006, infections with about 14 HPV virus spots that cause most HPV cancers, as well as benign genital warts, have fallen by more than 80% in adolescent girls and young women. Because the vaccine has been shown to be most effective when given before exposure to the HPVs that cause these cancers, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children receive the HPV vaccine before. the age of 11 or 12.

But, as Dr Kobetz knows all too well, lack of access and mistrust of the formal health system contributes to the increasing burden of cervical cancer in communities struggling with d ‘other structural, social and cultural barriers that lead to the risk of disease. Shortly after joining the University’s faculty in 2004, Dr Kobetz found that the incidence of cervical cancer among women in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami-Dade was more than four times higher than the incidence of cervical cancer. national rate. Among the reasons: Haitian women did not participate in routine Pap tests, which detect abnormal cells on the cervix that could eventually lead to cancer.

Today, the number of women undergoing more advanced HPV screenings in the area served by Sylvester has increased significantly, largely thanks to Creole-speaking community health workers who distribute tests at home that allow women to collect their own. cells, and Sylvester’s Game Changer bus and Office of Outreach and Engagement. As they do most days of the week, office health educators drove the bus to a community at high risk for cervical cancer on Wednesday to offer free HPV tests and navigation to free vaccinations. against HPV for eligible people.

Research priorities and community needs

“The most important lesson we have learned at Sylvester and in collaboration with WHO is to match our research priorities to the needs of communities and to engage local stakeholders in the collaborative science and action that create solutions to fill the gaps in cancer care, from screening to survival, ”said Dr. Kobetz.

Many other researchers and clinicians at the University have made the fight against cervical cancer one of their top academic priorities. Among them is Marilyn Huang, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine and co-director of translational research in gynecologic oncology. She is developing new immunotherapies that promise to prolong the survival of women living with recurrent or advanced cervical cancer in South Florida and beyond.

In addition, Matthew P. Schlumbrecht, MD, MPH, Head of Sylvester’s Gynecologic Oncology Department, is pursuing critical epidemiologic research demonstrating global challenges in addressing the persistent incidence of cervical cancer.

And, Sylvia Daunert, Pharm.D., MS, Ph.D., the chair of biochemistry and molecular biology, and Sapna Deo, Ph.D., professor in the same department, collaborated with Dr. Kobetz and associate professor of research Jean-Marc Zingg, Ph.D., to develop a rapid HPV test that will allow women everywhere to administer their own detection tests. As Kobetz noted, this could be a game-changer in the fight against cervical cancer, as women who live in places without laboratories – or even regular electricity – would have access to secondary prevention. and, in turn, life-saving treatment.

At least it’s increasingly likely to become a global reality, now that the world is committed to accelerating the elimination of cervical cancer.

Views of the publication:


Comments are closed.