31 May 2006

Australian and Queenslander of the Year Professor Ian Frazer has won an award from one of America’s premier cancer research groups.

Professor Frazer, the Director of The University of Queensland’s Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research (CICR), is joint winner of the Cancer Research Institute’s (CRI) 2006 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumour Immunology.

Professor Frazer will share the medal with German scientist Harald zur Hausen, the man who first linked the skin wart virus, human papilloma, to cervical cancer in the 1970s.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) causes abnormal cells or tissue growth on the feet, hands, vocal cords, mouth and genitals.

About 60 types of HPV have been identified so far with each strand infecting certain parts of the body.

Professor Frazer won the Coley medal for creating a vaccine against HPV and the potential to prevent cervical cancer.

He wins $5000 and a medallion which will be presented at a dinner in New York on June 27.

“I’m delighted that our team`s work should be recognised on the international stage in this way,” Professor Frazer said.

“It is particularly prestigious to share an award with Harald zur Hausen, who is the father figure of research in HPV associated cancer.

“It’s a great honour to be sharing this award with someone of his stature.”

The Coley Award has been presented by the CRI each year since 1975 to recognise outstanding achievements in basic and tumour immunology.

Award winners are chosen by The Academy of Cancer Immunology — a select group of 45 medical specialists, including five Nobel prize-winners, from 11 countries.

CRI supported the first early clinical trials of Dr Frazer`s vaccine, which was created in 1991.

The Coley award is the latest of many accolades for the cancer fighter who won the 2005 CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science and was named one of five Queensland Greats.

The Queensland Greats Awards honour icons who have played inspiring roles in the history and development of Queensland.

Professor Frazer was named Australian of the Year in January and Queenslander of the Year during Queensland Week activities at Parliament House on June 4.

He has also earned many honorary awards from Australian medical groups and a recent $1.25 million State Government Smart State Fellowship will expand his research at the CICR.

Professor Frazer said he was now focused on developing vaccines to cure people already infected with the HPV virus, particularly in the developing world.

A special luncheon in his honour will be hosted by the Princess Alexandra Hospital Foundation on June 23 at the Sofitel Hotel. For more information call 32405212.

Last month, Professor Frazer and his research team also received the news it had been awarded $90,500 as part of a National Health and Medical Research Council Development Grant to produce better therapeutic vaccines to fight cancer.

It was the only Queensland award among grants totalling more than $5 million made nationally to 21 medical research teams under the NHMRC's Industry and Postdoctoral Fellowships, and Development and Project Grants Schemes.

Cancer is among the major causes of global disease-burden — and so far, harnessing the body's immune system to fight cancer and infectious diseases has proved difficult.

Professor Frazer and his team have filed a provisional patent that demonstrates a way of boosting therapeutic immune responses in an antigen experienced host. His research will explore the necessary steps to trial this therapeutic approach in humans.

MEDIA: Professor Frazer (3240 5315), Anton Sanker at CICR (0412 057 512) or Miguel Holland at UQ (3365 2619)