Who is Cancer Charlie? #517/9

Who is Cancer Charlie?

I learned today from Dr. Kevin Ault in our OB/GYN department at Emory that the same vaccine, Gardisil, that prevents cervical cancer in women will also be available for men later this year. 

Great news!


It is now widely accepted that cancer of the cervix is caused by infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV). The infectious etiology of cervical cancer was first suggested when the second wives of some men whose first wife died of cervical cancer also developed cervical cancer.


Cancer Charlie is an actual man. Decades ago he came to the attention of one of the leaders in obstetrics and gynecology who helped elucidate the story of the human papilloma virus (HPV) as the primary cause of cervical cancer.


Cancer Charlie caused cervical cancer in four women. He looked like any other man.  None of the four women who were infected by him with the human papilloma virus could tell by looking at him that he was potentially a threat to them.


What is Gardisil?


It is worth saying this again: cervical cancer is the result of an infection. Gardisil is the vaccine that prevents infections by four types of genital HPV (6, 11, 16, 18). Infections by these 4 HPV types are now being prevented in millions of women by Gardisil. Large multicenter studies in young women indicate that the vaccine is nearly 100% effective in preventing infection with these HPV types and importantly, in preventing associated cervical cancer. It is recommended for all women age 12 to 26. In the best-case scenario the vaccine is provided to young women before they ever have intercourse.


How can Cancer Charlie be stopped?


Gardisil will be available for men by the end of 2009. If Cancer Charlie had received Gardisil as he entered the teenage years he would have been immunized against the two strains of the HPV virus (16 and 18) that cause about 80% of cases of cervical cancer in women and also can cause penile cancer in men…  If he had been immunized with Gardisil Cancer Charlie most likely would not have caused cancer in four women. Once available it will be important to remember that not all the cancer-causing serotypes of the human papilloma virus will be prevented and both women and men will need to use condoms to prevent the other HPV types that cause cervical cancer


Benign (noncancerous) genital warts account for more than 1 million physician office visits annually, making condyloma the most common symptomatic viral reproductive track infections  in the United States. The most sensitive measures of HPV indicate that up to 80% of all sexually active young women are infected with one or more of the many types of this virus.  Types 6 and 11 usually cause visible genital warts. The HPV types in the genital region that are associated with cervical dysplasia and cancer are (16, 18, 31, 33 and 35). Gardisil will protect men as it now protects women against HPV types 16 and 18.


 It is soon going to be possible to stop Cancer Charlie!



Key Words:  Cancer Charlie, Dr. Kevin Ault, Emory, vaccine, cervical cancer, infection, HPV, obstetrics, gynecology, Gardisil, genital infections, condoms, benign, condyloma, cervical dysplasia



Posted on

June 5, 2009