PHARMAC’s announcement timely for World Head and Neck Cancer Day


A micrograph of HPV induced throat cancer demonstrated in brown colour

“PHARMAC’s announcement of its decision to extend its HPV vaccination programme is timely given that 27 July was World Head and Neck Cancer Day,” says Dr Swee Tan, executive director of the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute (GMRI), which is involved in cutting-edge cancer research.

PHARMAC has extended the free vaccine to include year 8 boys, and has widened access for females and males to the age of 26 from January 2017.

The World Head and Neck Cancer Day ( highlights the plight of head and neck cancer patients.

The team led by Dr Tan at the GMRI, in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team caring for patients with head and neck cancer, consisting of specialists from the Wellington Blood and Cancer Centre and Department of Otolaryngology at Wellington Regional Hospital, and the Wellington Regional Plastic, Maxillofacial and Burns Unit and Department of Pathology at Hutt Hospital, have investigated the incidence and impact of HPV-induced throat cancer in New Zealand from 1994 to 2014.

The findings of the study, recently published in an international journal, have demonstrated that 81% of patients diagnosed with throat cancer during the study period were males.  It also shows that the prevalence of HPV-induced throat cancer increased from 24% during 1994 – 1999 to 76% during 2009 – 2014.

The study concludes that patients with HPV-induced throat cancer were 10 years younger at the time of diagnosis and they died 9 years earlier compared with patients with non-HPV induced throat cancer.

“Throat cancer and its treatment have devastating impacts on the quality of life and daily functioning of the patients.

“We commend PHARMAC’s decision to extend HPV vaccination to boys in New Zealand. It is a cost-effective way to prevent HPV-related throat cancer and other HPV-induced cancers in both men and women in New Zealand,” Dr Tan said.

For further information, contact Dr Swee Tan at the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute on +64 4 282 0366