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Event Report on Prof Margaret Stanley, “The development of vaccines and immunotherapies against human papillomaviruses, the cause of cervix cancer”

On Thursday evening a good crowd of 40-50 people joined Prof Margaret Stanley at Lucy Cavendish College.

Prof Stanley was an eloquent speaker and who gave a talk that was interesting to both biologists (of which there are quite a few at Cambridge AWiSE), those with a background in other STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths), and the parents in the audience with daughters taking part in the immunisation program.

HPV infections pose a huge global health burden. I knew a little about the connection between HPV and cervical cancer, but I hadn’t realised that the virus can lead to cancer in so many other body parts such as the tonsils, vulva, vagina, penis, and anus, as well as other infections such as genital warts.

We ran a live Twitter feed from our @camawise account during the talk. Tweets included:

– Joint @camawise and Lucy Cavendish talk by Prof Margaret Stanley on HPV just starting http://yfrog.com/od9pjvgj

– HPV is a beautiful virus in appearance, but one that creates a huge global health burden including > 0.5 million cervical cancers

– Margaret Stanley: it’s downhill from puberty immunilogically speaking. HPV vaccination is most effective pre-puberty

– HPV vaccination program in Australia was very successful. Almost 90% decline in new cases of genital warts in both men and women

[Did you follow the Twitter feed? Was it useful and interesting?]

It was clear that the HPV immunisation program has been an overwhelming success in the countries that have implemented it. The vast majority of cases of cervical cancer occur in third-world countries and implementing an HPV immunisation program would have a huge impact on the incidence of cervical cancer and save many lives.  The science studies to date indicate that expanding the vaccination program to boys would have a positive impact on men’s cancers. The next challenge is to persuade the Department of Health to take action.

There was an active question and answer session following the talk, then many of the crowd stayed on for the excellent science and geography formal hall.

Hope to see you at the next event!

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