Friday Frontline: HPV Vaccine Substantially Lowers Cervical Cancer Risk, First Patient Cured of HIV Dies from Cancer, and More

October 2, 2020

From study results demonstrating that the HPV vaccine substantially reduces the risk of cervical cancer to the first person known to be cured of HIV dying from acute myeloid leukemia, here’s what’s happening in the cancer landscape this week.

Data from a study of nearly 1.7 million women from Sweden demonstrated that the HPV vaccine substantially reduced their risk of developing cervical cancer.

Women who received the HPV vaccine before the age of 17 had their risk of developing cervical cancer reduced by 88%, according to study results published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Additionally, the data demonstrated that the risk of developing cervical cancer was reduced by 53% in women vaccinated between ages 17 and 30.

Younger girls were better protected from developing cervical cancer because they were immunized to HPV before being exposed through sexual activity, according to the study authors. The results help support earlier research that demonstrated the HPV vaccination can be a preventive tool for ovarian cancer.

“We have really strong data that show that HPV vaccination prevents advanced cervical precancer, and all scientists in the world who work in cervical cancer agree that if you prevent advanced pre-cancer you prevent cancer, and that that is the accepted marker,” Debbie Saslow, managing director of HPV and gynecological cancers at the American Cancer Society, said in an interview. “However, there are some critics and naysayers who say, ‘Yeah but show me that it prevents cancer,’ and this does that.”

A young patient with brain cancer received flowers and a personal note from Beyoncé.

Lyric Chanel’s family has been sharing her journey with anaplastic ependymoma, a brain tumor, on Instagram. One of the posts showing Lyric singing to Beyoncé’s 2011 hit “Love On Top” made its way to the artist. Beyoncé sent Lyric an arrangement of white flowers and an encouraging note.

″Honey, Honey, I can see the stars all the way from here, I can feel the sun whenever you're near,″ she wrote in her note to Lyric, quoting the song's lyrics. ″I was so moved to see how these lyrics inspired you, not nearly as much as you inspired me. I can't wait to meet you one day and I'm so happy you're home safely. You are a survivor. God bless, B."

A first-grade teacher in Oklahoma is cancer-free after receiving treatment for her8th breast cancer diagnosis.

Emily Marshall was first diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in 2008. The disease returned in 2012 and she underwent a double mastectomy. She had another recurrence in in 2015 and 2016, when she underwent another mastectomy. Her cancer recurred throughout this time, but recently in May she was given the all clear from her oncologist after scans showed no evidence of disease.

"Had some scans and my oncologist said that it responded really well with the chemo pills that I took, and [the cancer] was all completely gone," she said in an interview. "There's no evidence of disease."

However, Marshall will be receiving chemo pills for the rest of her life to keep the cancer at bay, but she has described her recent side effects as minimal and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep walking into her classroom cancer free.

Timothy Ray Brown, the first person to be cured of HIV, has died of cancer.

Brown, 54, had previously received bone marrow and stem cell transplants to treat his acute myeloid leukemia (AML). That transplant also led to his cure of HIV. Known as the “Berlin patient,” Brown was living in Berlin, Germany, as a translator when he was diagnosed with HIV and later AML. In 2007, his oncologist wanted to try a method that would address both his HIV and AML. The first transplant was only partly successful in eliminating his HIV and a second transplant from the same donor seemed to work fully.

“It opened up doors that weren’t there before and inspired scientists to work harder to find a cure,” Brown said at the time. This led to a similar transplant in 2016 which led to the “London patient” being cured of his HIV. Brown’s Berlin oncologist Dr. Gero Huetter called Brown a symbol for what is possible to help rid patients of HIV and noted Brown remained free of his HIV prior to his death.

“I am truly blessed that we shared a life together but I’m heartbroken that my hero is now gone. Tim was truly the sweetest person in the world,” Brown’s partner said in a statement announcing his passing.


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