Cervical Cancer Prevention Research Focus of New $11 Million Grant

MORGANTOWN — A major public health initiative aimed at preventing cervical cancer in at-risk Appalachian families from West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Virginia is underway with support from an $11 million National Cancer Institute grant.

The WVU Cancer Institute is collaborating with 10 health systems throughout Appalachia to conduct this research in close partnership with The Ohio State University (the lead institution), the University of Kentucky and the University of Virginia.

Led by a team of investigators, including WVU’s Stephenie K. Kennedy-Rea, this new initiative builds upon a long history of collaborative research and community partnerships.

The effort will focus on reducing the burden of cervical cancer in at-risk Appalachian communities by specifically targeting the primary causes of the cervical cancer: tobacco smoking, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection and lack of cervical cancer screening.

This new project will test the effectiveness of an integrated cervical cancer prevention program implemented by clinics and health centers consisting of three interventions:

∫ nicotine replacement therapy and smoking cessation counseling services,

∫ a method of at-home HPV screening and

∫ a medical practice-based intervention to improve HPV vaccination rates among patients ages 11-12 and 13-26 in Appalachia-based health centers.

There is a tremendous opportunity to reduce the burden of cervical cancer through public education, especially as it relates to the HPV vaccine, Pap testing and smoking cessation.

“Our state has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer and cervical cancer deaths in the United States. West Virginia also has the highest adult smoking rate in the nation and vaccination rates below the national average, and studies have shown the HPV vaccine and smoking cessation reduce rates of cervical cancer,” said Kennedy-Rea, director of cancer prevention and control at the WVU Cancer Institute.

“These health disparities in underserved communities are not new — they are long-standing and must be addressed in a systematic, sustainable way.

“Coupling cervical cancer screening with HPV vaccination and smoking cessation allows us to address the disparity comprehensively. We will tackle this through intentional community collaboration and multi-level intervention,” she said.

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