Transcript: CRCHD Podcast on Cervical Cancer
Dr. Sanya Springfield
NIH Research Radio Podcast
Aired: January 26, 2007
Bill Schmalfeldt: Welcome to Episode 24 of NIH Research Radio with news about the ongoing medical research at the National Institutes of Health, the Nation's biomedical research agency. I'm your host Bill Schmalfeldt. Coming up on this edition, I'll sit down for a chat with Dr. Sanya Springfield, acting director of the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD) and chief of the Comprehensive Minorities Biomedical Branch at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). We'll talk about the new human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and other issues.
We're coming to the end of January which is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month so we're glad to have in the studio with us today Dr. Sanya Springfield.
Dr. Sanya Springfield: Thank you for having me but allow me to make one correction to my titles - I'm now the director of the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities - no longer just acting director.
Schmalfeldt: Congratulations! We've been hearing a lot about the new vaccine for HPV. There are commercials for it now on TV, putting out the word that the vaccine is now available for the leading cause of cervical cancer. Of course, the NIH and the NCI have led the way in the research that led to the FDA approval of this vaccine. The word is getting out but what more can we do?
Dr. Springfield: I think that the first thing we need to do is to have interviews like this. I think the media are absolutely paramount in the success of getting out the information to the communities that are affected by cervical cancer. The Gardasil vaccine really represents a breakthrough in prevention strategies that have never been demonstrated before. So we now have the ability to absolutely prevent cervical cancer. It's important in our populations - and I'm talking about minority populations and underserved populations - because they suffer at a higher rate and die at a higher rate from cervical cancer.
Schmalfeldt: Why is that? Why are so many minority women still dying from this cancer?
Dr. Springfield: I attribute it to what I call "P-E-D" - prevention and early detection. Unfortunately, our communities are not up-to-date and not involved with their own health issues.
Schmalfeldt: Is it an economic thing, because they don't have health insurance?
Dr. Springfield: It's a multi-factorial thing. It's being uninsured, it's information gaps. Information to me is knowledge. It's also because of the locations where a lot of these populations are.
Schmalfeldt: They have problems getting to a doctor?
Dr. Springfield: A lot of them are in rural communities and just don't have transportation to doctors. Of course, I think one of the key factors is education and information dissemination. It's easy now for our young women, once they become sexually active, to have annual Pap tests. The word needs to get out that, if you do these kinds of annual Pap tests, the likelihood of you getting cancer and having it go undetected is low.
Schmalfeldt: Basically, a lot of it has to do with taking ownership of your own health and utilizing the services that are available. Talking a little more about the vaccine itself, what was all involved in getting this out on the market?
Dr. Springfield: I think, because of this unique promise - the early studies indicated that it was 100% preventable, that the vaccine would prevent cervical cancer - the FDA went on a "fast track" to get Gardasil out.
Schmalfeldt: FDA made a large point about the fact that they were putting this on the fast track although there was some controversy around it.
Dr. Springfield: I think one of the controversies about it is that people, especially young women and young girls, may believe it's an open door to sexual freedom. We really have to promote clear and concise and consistent information to our communities to make them aware of the true nature of this preventive agent.
Schmalfeldt: I see where New Hampshire is thinking about making this vaccine available free to all young women. Is that something we should do in all 50 states?
Dr. Springfield: I think it's the beginning of a groundswell in order to do that. The District of Columbia in fact has tried to make legislation regarding the requirement for young girls to have the vaccine. I think that once people are aware that here is a preventive agent that's available to prevent cervical cancer that's killing our populations in leaps and bounds, I think once that word gets disseminated to our communities, I think it's important for us to really think about making this a national program.
Schmalfeldt: And, of course, the NCI and the CRCHD are playing a key role in getting the word out. There is a web site, I understand.
Dr. Springfield: Yes, we just launched our new web site, recently revamped. It's more user-friendly. We have a section for researchers and a section for the lay public. We have information for individuals who want to apply for grants that we support through the CRCHD. We're really excited about this new web site. Let me give you the web site address which is http://crchd.cancer.gov.
We know it's important for us to disseminate this information but we also know that all populations don't have access to the Internet. For those who don't have access to the Internet, go to your local library or community center or church. We also have another way for individuals who don't have access to that Internet and that's to call 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).
Schmalfeldt: Let's back away from the HPV vaccine for just a moment and here's a unique opportunity to talk to the vast audience listening to us right now on this podcast about your organization - the Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD).
Dr. Springfield: The CRCHD has a mission and that mission, simply stated, is to reduce and ultimately eliminate the disparities that we see in our minority populations, in our underserved populations due to cancer. We have multiple strategies to do that. We fund and develop new and innovative community and clinical interventions. We're expanding our research base as it relates to minority investigators and also patients in clinical trial programs. We do wonderful dissemination, again revamping our web site so that we have information dissemination to educate these communities about cancer. What is cancer? How do you die from cancer? Is it a death sentence? Can I survive?
More importantly, we coordinate and integrate comprehensive cancer research programs and projects that are funded across the NCI. We really represent the focal point for the NCI for all of these activities.