Academics raise alarm over shoddy HPV ‘research’

Quebec academics urged to apologise to Quebecers for frightening the public without justification

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Editor’s note: The following is a condemnation by a group of academics (whose names can be found at the bottom) of statements made by three Quebec academics denying that HPV is the root cause of cervical cancer. 

CALGARY, Alta. Nov 16, 2015/ Troy Media/ – Geneviève Rail, Luisa Molino and Abby Lippman, of Concordia and McGill Universities, appear to be imitating the notorious Englishman, Andrew Wakefield. For a second time now, this trio has called for a moratorium on a Quebec public health program. (Vaccination contre les VPH, Contre la loi du silence, Le Devoir, October 29.)

Andrew Wakefield was the fraudulent British doctor who, in 1998, said that governments and greedy companies were conspiring with health scientists to dupe the public about the safety of the measles vaccine. When he was finally called to account by the scientific community, Wakefield (like Rail, Molino and Lippman) draped himself in a martyr’s cloak arguing that he was really just trying to start a debate. Now disgraced and disavowed by his one-time collaborators, Wakefield has been stripped of his U.K medical license.

But at least Wakefield published his findings, permitting the scientific community to review and eventually reject his data. This Quebec trio hasn’t even done that, despite having received a taxpayer-funded grant of $270,000 for their research.

Astonishingly, this trio denies that HPV is the root cause of cervical cancer. They must have been living in a cave not to acknowledge the decades of work that support this discovery. The 2008 Nobel committee recognized the HPV-cervical cancer link as a milestone in human health.

Even though Rail, Molino and Lippman appear not to understand the literature in the field and have failed to publish their own findings, they are calling on Quebec to stop administering the HPV vaccine. The arrogance of this action is stunning.

The HPV vaccine is recommended by virtually every major medical body in the developed world, including the Institut national du santé publique du Quebec, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the World Health Organization. The Quebec trio’s attempt to frame their criticism of the HPV vaccine as part of a ‘debate’ is both self-aggrandizing and ludicrous.

Furthermore, they appear to believe that science can advance by means other than rigorous collection of data and publication of results in journals open to review and criticism. Science is not about innuendo and personal beliefs; it is about truth, biological mechanisms and reproducibility.

We write not to ‘silence’ this trio. On the contrary. We remind them of their scientific and moral obligation to publish their methods, data and results (if they have any). So far, they have contributed nothing to science but their strident voices. And they certainly are not victims; rather, they are making victims of children who might not receive the HPV vaccine because of their actions.

We also question Le Devoir’s decision to print again these false opinions, which have already caused an enormous amount of work for Quebec doctors and nurses who must again assure parents of the HPV vaccine’s safety. There is danger in irresponsible publishing which the British medical journal, The Lancet, experienced when it lent its fine name to Wakefield’s remarkably poor-quality work.

Rail, Molino and Lippman seek to be viewed as ‘honest little scientists’ up against big money. Further, they demonize those who defend the HPV vaccine as ‘bought’ by their imaginary conspiracy of pharma and government. The fundamental flaw in this ‘marketing’ of their conspiracy is that, if such a conspiracy were to exist, then we (the signatories) would almost certainly know about it. Yet all of us have gone to some length to ensure that our children and grandchildren receive the HPV vaccine, in many cases even before publicly-funded programs were launched.

The leaders of the universities whose letterheads these three individuals use must help them understand that academics have an obligation to act assiduously, responsibly and humbly in the public interest. This obligation is not met by shouting loudly that Quebec must shut down a safe and effective public health program that prevents illness and death, only on the basis of an unpublished series of anecdotes. Likewise, Le Devoir should not have allowed this trio, a second time, to cry “Fire” in a crowded theatre when there is no fire.

We call upon Rail, Molino and Lippman urgently to apologise to Quebecers for frightening the public without justification. We call upon Le Devoir to account for its decisions. We affirm (again) that the HPV vaccine is safe and effective.

  1. Brian J Ward, MSc, DTM&H, MDCM, Professor of Medicine & Microbiology, McGill University, Montréal, Que.
  2. Eduardo L. Franco, DrPH, FRSC, FCAHS; Professor and Chairman, Department of Oncology; Director, Division of Cancer Epidemiology, McGill University; Editor-in-Chief, Preventive Medicine
  3. Randy Schekman, PhD, Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of California at Berkeley; Editor-in-Chief, eLife; Awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2013
  4. Marc Steben, MD, C.M.F., F.C.M.F., President, Canadian HPV Prevention Network , Montréal, Que.
  5. François Boucher, MD, FRCPC, Associate professor of Paediatrics, Laval University School of Medicine; Chief, Pediatric infectious diseases, Centre Mère-Enfant, CHU de Québec-Université Laval;
  6. Zeev Rosberger, PhD, Associate Professor, Oncology; Psychiatry; Psychology, McGill University; Senior Investigator, Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research & Director, Louise Granofsky-Psychosocial Oncology Program, Jewish General Hospital, Montréal, Que.
  7. Arnaud Gagneur, M.D, Ph.D., Professeur agrégé, Département de Pédiatrie, Unité de Néonatalogie, CHUS Fleurimont, Sherbrooke, Que.
  8. Michel Alary, MD, PhD Directeur Axe Santé des populations et pratiques optimales en santé, Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec, Professeur titulaire, Département de médecine sociale et préventive, Faculté de medicine, Université Laval, Médecin-conseil Institut national de santé publique du Québec
  9. Juliet Guichon, BA, MA, BCL, SJD, Assistant Professor, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary
  10. Vincent Racaniello, Ph.D., Higgins Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, Columbia University, New York, Past President, American Society for Virology
  11. William A. Fisher PhD, Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Western University, London Ontario Canada, Fellow, Canadian Academy of Health Science
  12. Anne Doig, MD, CCFP, FCFP, LLD, Past President Canadian Medical Association, Associate Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
  13. Morley D. Hollenberg, D. Phil., M.D., FRSC, Professor, Department of Physiology & Pharmacology, and Department of Medicine, University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine
  14. Scott Gray-Owen, PhD, Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto, Toronto Ont.
  15. Lionel Mandell MD, FRCPC, FRCP (LOND), Professor Emeritus, Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine; Director, International Health and Tropical Diseases Clinic at Hamilton Health Sciences
  16. Helen Trottier, MSc, PhD, Professeur agrégé d’épidémiologie, Université de Montréal
  17. Lorne A Babiuk OC, PhD,DSc, FRSC, FCAHS. Vice President Research University of Alberta
  18. Tara Moriarty, PhD, Faculty of Dentistry (Matrix Dynamics Group) & Faculty of Medicine (Laboratory Medicine & Cell Biology), University of Toronto
  19. Robert Connelly, MD, MBA, FRCPC, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Pediatrics, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont.
  20. Julie Bettinger, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor, Pediatrics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.
  21. Matthew S. Miller, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences
Institute for Infectious Diseases Research, McMaster Immunology Research Centre, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton Ont.
  22. Christopher Mackie MD, MHSc, CCFP, FRCPC Medical Officer of Health and CEO, Middlesex-London Health Unit Ontario. Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McMaster University, Hamilton Ont.
  23. Karen Mossman, Professor, Chair, Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences. McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont.
  24. Mark Joffe MD, FRCP(C) Professor of Medicine, University of Alberta.
  25. Noni MacDonald, MD, professeur de médecine pédiatrique à l’Université Dalhousie, Halifax, N.S.
  26. Jonathan B. Kronick, Chief of Education, The Learning Institute, The Hospital for Sick Children, Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Clinical and Metabolic Genetics, University of Toronto
  27. Jeff Kwong, MD MSc CCFP FRCPC, Senior Scientist, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences Scientist, Public Health Ontario, Family Physician, Toronto Western Family Health Team, Associate Professor, Department of Family & Community
  28. Margaret L. Russell MD PhD FRCPC (Public Health & Preventive Medicine), Cumming School of Medicine
  29. Catherine Dubé, MD, MSc, FRCPC, gastro-entérologue et responsable de clinique pour le Programme de dépistage du cancer colorectal de l’Ontario, Université d’Ottawa, Ottawa
  30. Sergio Grinstein, The Hospital for Sick Children and University of Toronto
  31. Kirk Leifso, MD, MSc, FRCPC, FAAP, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Queen’s University; Pediatric Infectious Diseases Consultant, Kingston General/Hotel Dieu Hospitals, Kingston, Ont.
  32. David Evans, PhD FCAHS, Professor, Medical Microbiology & Immunology, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry University of Alberta
  33. Athena McConnell, MD FRCP(C), Associate Professor, Pediatric Infectious Diseases, University of Saskatchewan
  34. Vardit Ravitsky, PhD,Associate Professor, Bioethics Programs, School of Public Health, University of Montreal
  35. Samara Perez, Vanier Scholar; PhD Candidate, Department of Psychology, McGill University
  36. Tania Watts, Ph.D, Professor and Sanofi Pasteur chair in Human Immunology, University of Toronto
  37. Harriet Richardson, Ph.D, Associate Professor & MSc Program Director, Dept. Public Health Sciences, Divisions of NCIC Clinical Trials Group & Cancer Care and Epidemiology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont.
  38. Lori D. Frappier, PhD, Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto, Canada Research Chair in Molecular Virology, Toronto Ont.
  39. Bonita Lee. Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta
  40. Chris O’Callaghan, PhD, Senior Investigator – NCIC Clinical Trials Group, Professor – Department of Public Health Sciences, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont.
  41. Aaron Wheeler, Professor and Canada Research Chair of Bioanalytical Chemistry at the University of Toronto
  42. Gilla Shapiro MA (Cantab), MPA/ MPP, PhD Candidate, Department of Psychology, McGill University Montreal

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