Date Published: 11 August 2005
Queensland University Scientist wins award for Cervical Cancer Vaccine
A University of Queensland (UQ) scientist has received one of Australia's premier science awards in recognition of pioneering research which has led to the development of a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.
Professor Ian Frazer, Director of UQ's Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research (CICR), received the 2005 CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Science at a gala awards ceremony in Sydney, Australia, on 9th August.
Professor Frazer said he was delighted to receive the prize and to have been involved in the development of the vaccine:
" It is gratifying to see the team's work over many years recognised by this prestigious accolade. These awards show to the community the benefits that come from investment in medical research.
_This is a world first. It is the first time a vaccine designed to prevent cancer has been developed and it has happened right here in Australia.
_ It is very encouraging to see such good results coming out of Australian research, and developed in conjunction with CSL, an Australian company.
_It's sad that Dr Jian Zhou, who was my research partner, passed away before the work was publicly recognised."
The 2005 Australian Museum Trust Eureka Prizes award dinner was held at Sydney's famous Royal Hall of Industries. The event was compered by television and radio personalities including Sandra Sully, Richard Morecroft, Sally Loane and Adam Spencer. This new award is worth $10,000 dollars, and is sponsored by CSIRO. It is awarded to an Australian individual who has demonstrated an outstanding role and impact in science leadership.
President of the Australian Museum Trust, Brian Sherman said Professor Frazer's research into the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most important discovers in Australian science in the past 20 years.
Mr Sherman said:
" Ian Frazer and his team are on track to effectively eliminate cervical cancer.
_ It's a remarkable scientific and leadership achievement, which is reflected in his roles advising the World Health Organisation, the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation and the Queensland Cancer Fund on cancer immunology."
Phase III clinical trials involving approximately 25,000 patients worldwide are close to completion and the outcome is expected to mirror earlier trial results which showed the vaccine to be 95-100% effective.
The vaccine now being developed by pharmaceutical giants Merck & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) as CervigardTM and GardasilTM is expected to be commercially available in 2006.
Cervical cancer is one of the few human cancers that is known to be directly caused by a viral infection. A small percentage of HPV strains lead to the development of cervical cancer, a disease that is the second leading cause of cancer amongst women. More than 500,000 cases are diagnosed annually and it kills an estimated 275,000 women around the world every year. Other types of the HPV virus cause genital and skin warts. The HPV's that convey a high risk of cervical cancer are contracted by up to an estimated 70% of sexually active women.
Professor Frazer said Gardasil and Cervigard will only protect women who are yet to be infected with HPV, and will be of no help to the hundreds of millions of women already infected.
" My major focus these days, as indeed it was right back in the beginning, is on developing a vaccine to treat these existing infections with papillomavirus.
_ We have produced a second vaccine which we hope will be successful in treating existing infections, however clinical trials are still at a very early stage.
_ A therapeutic vaccine to treat already infected individuals is much harder to develop than a vaccine to prevent infection."
Source: Queensland University, Australia.