Saving lives by preventing cervical cancer
Two vaccines, Gardasil™ and Cervarix™, are the result of research on papillomavirus virus-like particles, conducted at UQ’s Diamantina Institute, partner in the Translational Research Institute (TRI), by Professor Ian Frazer AC and the late Dr Jian Zhou. In a ground-breaking innovation, vaccines to prevent cervical cancer, based on these virus-like particles, have benefited tens of millions of women world wide, and have the capacity to save an estimated quarter of a million lives annually.
Used to prevent infection with four strains of human papilloma virus (HPV), Gardasil™ is the first vaccine designed to prevent a cancer. It can protect against an estimated 70 per cent of cervical cancers and some oral, anal, vulvar, vaginal and penile cancers, as well as the majority of genital warts, in both men and women. A new version of the vaccine, protecting against nine strains of HPV, and more than 90 per cent of cervical cancer, is scheduled for release shortly.
Widespread use of Gardasil™ and Cervarix™ has the potential to reduce cervical cancer deaths around the world by as much as two-thirds, according to the National Cancer Institute in the US. The vaccines’ success in preventing HPV and associated conditions may also help to reduce the costs of future medical care, including biopsies and invasive procedures associated with abnormal Pap tests. The vaccines are currently administered in three doses over six months, and may also be effective after just two doses.
Approved for use in more than 120 countries – including the United States, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union – Gardasil™ and Cervarix™ have been administered in more than 170 million doses world wide as of April 2014.
Further research has confirmed, through studies based in Vanuatu, that a test for HPV can help control cervical cancer in developing nations. Professor Frazer and his colleagues are determined to make the vaccines more affordable to girls and young women in the developing world, and have worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization in an endeavour to save more lives.