Dr. Birrer on Remaining Challenges in Cervical Cancer

Michael Birrer, MD, PhD
Published: Monday, Nov 28, 2016



Michael Birrer, MD, PhD, director of Medical Gynecologic Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital, discusses some of the remaining challenges in treating patients with cervical cancer.

Essentially all cervical cancers could be entirely eliminated, according to Birrer, as the HPV vaccine is widely available. Surprisingly, despite its accessibility, the vaccination rate in this country is quite low. Birrer hopes to see wider use of the vaccine in the near future.

In terms of treatment, Birrer briefly discusses a subset of patients whose tumors are still considered to be inoperable. These particular patients receive chemoradiation, which has shown efficacy, but for some, their tumors come back, and this can present many more difficulties for the overall course of treatment. A small percentage of these patients are candidates for exenteration, or complete surgical removal of the organ. However, Birrer strongly advises against this procedure, which he refers to as “horrific” in nature for patients, regardless of its ability to salvage.

Novel treatment options must also be investigated for patients who develop recurrent metastatic disease, says Birrer.


Michael Birrer, MD, PhD, director of Medical Gynecologic Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital, discusses some of the remaining challenges in treating patients with cervical cancer.

Essentially all cervical cancers could be entirely eliminated, according to Birrer, as the HPV vaccine is widely available. Surprisingly, despite its accessibility, the vaccination rate in this country is quite low. Birrer hopes to see wider use of the vaccine in the near future.

In terms of treatment, Birrer briefly discusses a subset of patients whose tumors are still considered to be inoperable. These particular patients receive chemoradiation, which has shown efficacy, but for some, their tumors come back, and this can present many more difficulties for the overall course of treatment. A small percentage of these patients are candidates for exenteration, or complete surgical removal of the organ. However, Birrer strongly advises against this procedure, which he refers to as “horrific” in nature for patients, regardless of its ability to salvage.

Novel treatment options must also be investigated for patients who develop recurrent metastatic disease, says Birrer.

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