New research could save lives
Cancer Council NSW has announced funding for new research it says could save the lives of gay men at risk of anal cancer and HPV.
Gay men are the highest risk group for anal cancer which is mainly caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).
It's estimated that 64 per cent of gay men are infected with HPV which causes more than 80 per cent of anal cancer cases.
Dr Libby Topp, Research Strategy Manager, Cancer Council NSW said the recent approval of Gardasil HPV vaccinations for boys would help reduce such cases in the future, but action against anal cancer needed to be taken now.
Researchers will identify whether anal cancer screening of high-risk populations, combined with effective treatment, will save lives in the decades before the effects of the HPV vaccination are seen.
“This research could result in less illness and death from this disease in the very near future. When you couple this with the longer term benefits of vaccinating boys against HPV, we could see some significant reductions in anal cancer amongst gay men,” Topp said.
Chief Investigator, Professor Andrew Grulich of UNSW said while anal cancer is uncommon in the general population, it is a significant public health issue particularly in gay men.
“My research will look at ways of identifying and treating the disease early when survival rates are still high," Grulich said.
“My team is delighted to be awarded this grant from Cancer Council NSW. It will help us examine means of preventing anal cancer related deaths, including adult HPV vaccination, screening and treatment of anal cancer precursors, and improving early stage treatments.”
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said the organisation fully supported the research and vaccinations for young men at risk.
“While early vaccination is best, research suggests a significant impact on the likelihood of future development of anal cancers or pre-cancerous lesions where Gardasil is given to men aged 18 to 26," Parkhill said.
"We are therefore fully in support of the provision of Gardasil to gay and bisexual men and HIV+ men up to age of 26.”
HPV vaccinations are safe for all men up to age 26, but are more effective when given at younger ages, preferably before first sexual contact. Vaccinations can prevent infection, but cannot cure existing infections.
While condom use may help lower the chance of infection, HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom, so vaccination is vital.
Researchers suggested that other HPV-related cancers like penile and throat cancer might also be reduced by HPV vaccination, but studies have yet to be done to evaluate those outcomes.