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According to Ville Pimenoff, associate professor in evolutionary medicine at the University of Oulu, the immune protection, including herd immunity provided by the HPV vaccine, is an effective way to protect the population from HPV-related cancers, especially when both girls and boys are vaccinated. Additionally, adequate vaccination of the whole population changes the ecological dynamics of the remaining papillomaviruses.

“This leads to the conclusion that in the near future, cervical cancer screening for oncogenic HPV infections should be eased or completely stopped for those who have been vaccinated,” says Pimenoff.

In addition to cervical cancer, HPV vaccination is also effective against HPV-related cancers in other parts of the genital area and the mouth and throat. 

In the near future, cervical cancer screening for oncogenic HPV infections should be eased or completely stopped for those who have been vaccinated.

Ville Pimenoff, associate professor in evolutionary medicine, University of Oulu

Vast datasets require computing power

Pimenoff’s research interests range from population genetics of humans to the evolution of pathogens affecting human health. Studies of genetic variation in viruses and other microbes, in general, requires a large amount computing and data processing. In his work, Pimenoff makes extensive use of CSC’s computing services and sensitive data services.

In studying cancer-causing papillomaviruses at a population scale, Pimenoff used a large cervical HPV infections cohort data collected from 33 Finnish cities and towns, where a total of 22,000 young individuals were monitored for 16 years after most of them had received the HPV vaccine. The research dataset is the largest community-randomized vaccination cohort in the world, providing an excellent setup to examine the evolutionary dynamics of cancer-causing papillomaviruses in the population that has been HPV vaccinated compared to the non-vaccinated fraction of the population.

“From this cohort data, I used computer-assisted methods to simulate HPV infections prevalence dataset among half a million young Finnish women. I used CSC’s computing power and sensitive data virtual cloud,” Pimenoff says.

Synthetic data can be analyzed across all of CSC’s services. For sensitive data, CSC has a dedicated service.

Access for international collaborators

In collaboration with CSC, Pimenoff has built a system where access to the sensitive data can be shared internationally as well. 

“We can grant permission for access to anonymous data to be shared with our international collaborators, but the datasets are processed only within the CSC environment and cannot be physically transferred abroad. CSC’s tools for analyzing sensitive genomic data are now better than before. CSC has made good improvements,” Pimenoff says.