September marked ten years since the world’s first cancer vaccine, developed right here in Queensland, was administered in Australia.
Developed by a research team led by Professor Ian Frazer and his colleague, the late Dr Jian Zhou, the human papillomaviruses (HPV) vaccine took about 16 years to create using genetic engineering.
The HPV vaccine works to protect the body against infections that can lead to a variety of different cancers, including cervical cancer. In addition to protecting women against cervical cancer, the vaccine also works to protect against 90 per cent of all HPV-related cancers in men, including head, neck and genital tract cancers.
Since the vaccine’s introduction, the number of new cervical cancer cases in women has halved with over 187 million doses administered across 130 countries. This is only the beginning however, as it is possible that the vaccine could eliminate HPV-associated cancers within 40 years if delivered effectively.
The key to continued success for this vaccine is screening and vaccination programs. Girls and boys aged 12-13 in Australia can receive the HPV vaccine free of charge as part of the National HPV Vaccination Program.
However, until we eliminate HPV completely, our work will continue to find better ways of treating those already infected with the virus, and all those diagnosed with HPV-related cancers. The success of the HPV vaccine over the past decade, and our ability to move towards the goal of a cancer free future would not have been possible without the continued support of our volunteers. Thank you.