Dr. Steven Scheibel, Medical Director at Desert AIDS Project, believes he’s found a new way to treat the conditions that can lead to anal cancer. The new therapy uses human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines in conjunction with an immune-boosting cream to kill anal dysplasia, which is often a gateway to anal cancer. This therapy promises to be an alternative to surgery as well as a way to address soaring rates of HPV and resulting dysplasia, which weighs so heavily on gay men and those with HIV.
Dr. Scheibel, along with Dr. Praveena Yetur of LabCorp in Monrovia, wanted to treat anal dysplasia, which manifests as lesions in the anal cavity. These lesions can range from mild to severe and may morph into cancer. Working with a 55-year-old man with moderate to severe anal dysplasia, the patient was given imiquimod cream followed by injections of an HPV vaccine called Gardasil. By intervals of three to four weeks, the treatments were delivered over a two-year period. “The patient was screened for high-risk HPV on a weekly basis and had multiple biopsies to identify possible dysplasia,” Dr. Scheibel says. “The result was no virus and a normal anal Pap smear.”
Treatment for HPV and anal cancer is essential at D.A.P. because they pose growing threats to many of our patients. HPV is the most common sexually-transmitted virus circulating today, with up to 75% of sexually active people contracting it in their lifetimes, according to Boston Medical Center’s website. Medical experts agree that HPV infection is even higher in people with HIV. And, although anal cancer is still relatively rare, its prevalence is growing fast, particularly among men who have sex with men (MSM) and those who are HIV-positive, says BioMedCentral.com. In fact, anal cancer among MSM with HIV is rising at 80 times the rate of the general population, Dr. Scheibel reports. Therefore, D.A.P. is busy searching for answers to HPV, anal cancer, and other clinical issues that challenge our patients.
HPV also is a key factor in head and neck cancer, for which we offer free screenings to clients, staff, and the general public once a year through the Annette Bloch Cancer Care Center. Dr. Scheibel leads a movement to increase clinical research performed under our roof and has made notable headway in the area of HPV and anal dysplasia. The treatment has shown so much promise that Dr. Scheibel will present his findings at “HPV 2015,” the 30th International Papillomavirus Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, held September 17-21.
Researching disease and sharing results with international colleagues, is not new to the internist, who specializes in infectious disease and is AAHIVS credentialed as an HIV Specialist. Dr. Scheibel has done clinical research on HIV and AIDS for decades and was a researcher as well as co-founder and Associate Medical Director of the Community Health Network in Rochester, N.Y., in 1989. He’s been on teams whose work is cited in books such as “Public Health Behind Bars: From Prisons to Communities.” Dr. Scheibel has presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, the Symposium on Cell Biology of Virus Entry, and he’s traveled to such cities as San Francisco, Casablanca, and Yokohama, Japan, to appear at the International Conference on AIDS.
Nevertheless, presentation at the HPV conference is special, says Rod Hagan, D.A.P.’s Clinical Research Coordinator: “If we could demonstrate a potential treatment for dysplasia that would prevent the need for the invasive surgical solutions that are out there, then this is huge. And getting the rate of HPV among our patients in line with that of the general population… yes, the potential of this is pretty exciting.”