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Grant launches Cervical Cancer-Free Indiana Initiative

INDIANAPOLIS -- (Dec. 02, 2010) -- Indiana will join a multi-state program focused on cervical cancer prevention thanks to an unrestricted gift from GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals to the Indiana University School of Medicine, in partnership with the Kristen Forbes EVE Foundation.

Cervical Cancer-Free America (CCFA) is an initiative designed to raise awareness, increase screenings for cervical cancer, and increase rates of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination with the ultimate goal of eliminating cervical cancer. HPV is the primary cause of cervical cancer. Initial funding for this initiative was through a $1 million unrestricted educational grant by GlaxoSmithKline to the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. The CCFA program has since spread to Alabama, Kentucky, California, and Indiana and will probably be initiated in other states in the future.

Gregory Zimet, Ph.D., is the recipient of $150,000 in funding for Cervical Cancer-Free Indiana. Dr. Zimet, a researcher at the IU Simon Cancer Center, has spent several years conducting studies of the public’s response to vaccinations, primarily one for HPV prevention.

Dr. Zimet, professor of pediatrics and clinical psychology in the Section of Adolescent Medicine, has teamed with Kirk Forbes, whose 23-year-old daughter died of cervical cancer. Forbes now directs the foundation started in 2009 in memory of his daughter, the Kristen Forbes EVE Foundation.

The foundation, which is devoted to the eradication of cervical cancer, will expand on its existing strategies to increase awareness about cervical cancer and rates of cervical cancer screening and HPV vaccination through outreach to disadvantaged, racial minority and ethnic communities that tend to have higher rates of HPV infection and cervical cancer.

“Our mission is to educate, screen and prevent HPV and cervical cancer,” Forbes said. “We hope to reduce deaths, hysterectomies and other surgeries as well as cervical cancer.”

“I’ve had a long history in researching decisions on prevention issues and how they are made,” Dr. Zimet said. "This generous gift from GlaxoSmithKline for developing these programs in Indiana will ultimately save women’s lives.”

Virtually all cervical cancers are caused by HPV, which is transmitted sexually. Most women and men who’ve had sex have been exposed to HPV at some time in their lives. Although all women can develop cervical cancer, minorities -- including African-American and Hispanic women --are most at risk. For instance, Hispanic women have twice the rate of cervical cancer as non-Hispanic white women. Disparities in access to health care, such as regular Pap tests, are the primary reason for the higher rates.

Two vaccines for HPV prevention have been approved by the FDA. Both vaccines prevent infection with the two HPV types that cause about 70 percent of cervical cancers in the United States. Pap tests and HPV testing also are recommended for prevention and early detection of cervical cancer.