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HPV Vaccine to treat skin cancer

July 16, 2018

Local doctor uses HPV vaccine to treat elderly woman’s skin cancer

By: Belkys Nerey


MIAMI (WSVN) – A South Florida doctor may have made a medical breakthrough when she used an HPV vaccine to treat an elderly woman’s skin cancer, and it caused the tumors to vanish.

Squamous cell skin cancer tumors once covered Mrs. McKenzie’s right leg, but things are much different now.

“One down here and there was one there, but I don’t know where the other ones were,” she said.

The University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center shared pictures and video of the patient’s remarkable recovery.

“There’s nothing to show for them now,” said McKenzie.

She is smiling now, but treatment for her tumors seemed bleak just two years ago.

“She was not a candidate for surgery because of the sheer number and size of her tumors,” said Dr. Anna Nichols, a dermatologist at the cancer center. “She wasn’t a candidate for radio therapy for the same reasons.”

Back in 2017, Nichols released a case report that she thought might help. It showed the HPV vaccine Gardasil reduced skin cancer growth in two patients.

Nichols’ team decided to take a chance on the off-label treatment.

“I think we had a really reasonable expectation and good data that this was actually going to, at the very least, do no harm to this patient and possibly provide some benefit,” said Dr. Tim Ioannides from the UM Miller School of Medicine.

First, McKenzie was given two doses of the vaccine in her arm. A few weeks later, it was injected directly into several of her tumors.

Doctors began noticing a change.

“All of her tumors completely resolved in about 11 months after the first direct tumor injection, and she has no reoccurrence,” said Nichols. “It’s been about 24 months now since we started with the treatment.”

“They just said, ‘Try it,’ and it worked. It just killed them all,” said McKenzie.

McKenzie and her son are now looking forward to celebrating her 100th birthday this fall.

“It’s like they were never there,” said her son. “It was just amazing, the recovery.”

Doctors said results may vary depending on the person, but McKenzie’s family hopes her experience will generate more research.

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