In Their Own Words: Dr. Sholom Wacholder

Uploaded by NCIgov on 25.05.2010

For the past 20 years,
I've been involved
in the research program looking
at human papillomavirus.
HPV causes virtually all
cervical cancer,
and cervical cancer is the
second leading cause
of cancer death in women
in the world.
We are at the point
where by using HPV vaccine
and by screening older women
for HPV infection we might be
able to reduce the frequency
of cervical cancer
and the mortality
from cervical
cancer substantially.
One of my jobs is
to be the statistician
on an HPV vaccine trial,
where we are looking
at the effect of a vaccine
against human papillomavirus
on the risk
of cervical infections
and clinical lesions.
One of my responsibilities
is safety.
The safety here is
for the participants
in the trial to make sure
that they do not take any
unnecessary risks.
There was a study
from a parallel trial
that showed that women
who received the same vaccine
that we were giving seemed
to have a trend towards a higher
rate of miscarriage.
And so I was asked
to do an analysis using data
from the parallel study,
as well as our study,
to try to get a more definitive
answer about whether
or not there was a relationship
between vaccination and the risk
of miscarriage.
What we concluded is
that overall there was no
evidence of an increased risk
of miscarriage among the women
who were vaccinated.
How do you provide the best
evidence about the question
that you are interested
in from the data
that you have available?
I think that my particular
skill, my particular expertise
is in framing the question
in a statistically appropriate
way that answers the clinical
or public health
or etiologic question that's
being asked.
I can't tell at the beginning
of the day how I'm going
to spend my time.
Sometimes I spend it
in meetings looking at data,
sometimes planning new analyses,
sometimes designing new studies,
sometimes interpreting what's
there in the literature.
Every day is different.
Every day I learn new things.
Every day I talk directly
with smart people
who can teach me new things
or indirectly from reading
about other people's work.