Timeline: 10 Years of the HPV Vaccine

Hallie Whitman; Stephanie Cajigal


August 05, 2016

From being hailed as "one of the most important advances in women's health" to facing lawsuits over its safety, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has certainly had a bumpy ride since it was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006. Here are the major events leading up to the vaccine's 10-year anniversary.

February 1982: HPV/Cervical Cancer Link Confirmed

After the 1965 discovery that HPV is made up of double-stranded DNA, research interest in characterizing the multifaceted nature of the virus is revitalized. In the early 1970s, anecdotal evidence surfaces describing cases in which HPV infections known as condylomata acuminata, or genital warts, transformed into squamous cell carcinomas. This indicated that HPV infections might lead to cervical cancer. Further experiments begin in 1972 to formally investigate the relationship.[1]

The linkage is confirmed in 1982, when a series of studies is published presenting evidence of HPV 6 DNA in malignant tumor biopsies. These reports specifically detail the presence of viral DNA in what become known as Buschke-Löwenstein tumors, which arise from genital warts.[1]

In the decade following, a large body of research corroborates this link. Using molecular biology technologies, researchers identify DNA from HPV strains 16 and 18 in cervical cancer biopsies. Other studies confirm that HPV 6, 11, and 16 DNA are also often linked to vulvar and penile cancers.[1] Data continue to build implicating the involvement of HPV in other types of cancers, including vaginal, anal, and perianal skin.[2]

This evidence leads scientists to name HPV the "first-ever identified 'necessary cause' of a human cancer," meaning that the disease "does not and will not develop in the absence of persistent presence of HPV DNA."[2]


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