September 4, 2012 | The Editors

Milestones: tackling cervical cancer

Here’s the seventh post in our occasional series on milestones in PATH’s history. Today, we highlight our ongoing work to decrease the number of women who develop cervical cancer.

2003 to present

The health challenge: About 85 percent of cervical cancer deaths occur in the developing world. Millions of women are never screened for cervical cancer because of poor or inaccessible health services or myths and fears about cervical screening.

A woman sits at a lab bench, applying liquid from a squeeze bottle to a small rectangular box.
A laboratory technician in Shanxi, China, works with the careHPV™ test. Photo: Cancer Institute and Hospital, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

What we did: PATH was one of the first health organizations to focus on cervical cancer in the developing world. In 2003, PATH began working with private-sector collaborators to develop two rapid tests for the types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause most cervical cancers. The screening tests are safe, accurate, and affordable, designed specifically for use in places with limited health care resources. We also helped develop an even simpler visual inspection method so that women with limited access to health care facilities can receive screening and treatment in a single visit.

More recently, we launched a project to accelerate access to new HPV vaccines, working in four developing countries to create tailored approaches to vaccine introduction and to provide education and training for families, decision-makers, and health care providers. We are also working with vaccine producers and distributors as well as developing-country governments to identify and resolve the logistical challenges of procuring, transporting, storing, and administering the new vaccines.

The result: Between 2003 and 2007, PATH’s research partners screened more than 21,000 women in China and India, collected specimens for test-development use, and offered free treatment as appropriate. Feedback from local partners helped verify that these screening tests are acceptable to women, health care providers, and other stakeholders.

In 2011, PATH and our partners completed vaccinations of 57,000 girls in India, Peru, Uganda, and Vietnam against HPV. The demonstration projects showed that HPV vaccination is acceptable and feasible in these areas, and that high coverage can be attained.

Posted in: ,