Cervical Cancer

The Translational Research Institute (TRI) was inspired by Founding TRI CEO Professor Ian Frazer’s translational success and experience as co-inventor of the original HPV vaccine, Gardasil. 

Now – thanks to the success of the HPV vaccine and the National Cervical Screening Program – Australia is on track to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health issue by 2035. 

Gardasil was the first vaccine against Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a virus recognised as causing the majority of cervical cancers, and strongly associated with several other cancers including head and neck, and anal cancers. This discovery has since moved into clinical practice across the world, and is a prime example of translating lab discoveries into better health outcomes for patients.

Journey from bench to bedside

In 1989, Professor Frazer and his late colleague Doctor Jian Zhou and Doctor Xiao-Yi Sun succeeded in constructing a virus-like particle resembling the outer coat of HPV at The University of Queensland. 

It is from this technology that the Gardasil vaccine was successfully made.

The journey to develop and market Gardasil took 16 years. During this time, Professor Frazer demonstrated efficacy in clinical trials, and partnered with pharmaceutical company Merck to get it ready for market.

The Gardasil vaccine protects against four types of HPV, including two types that cause 70% of cervical cancers (16 and 18), and two types which cause genital warts (6 and 11). Clinical trials demonstrated strong protection against these HPV types, combined with decreases in HPV-associated cervical abnormalities and genital warts.

The vaccine was rolled out nationally through the National HPV Vaccination Program in 2007, initially to girls aged 12-13 years with a catch-up programme for women aged 14-26 years. In 2009, and the program was extended to include boys aged 12-13 years in 2013, with a catch-up program for boys aged 14-15 running until the end of 2015.

From 2006 to 2014, 144 million doses of Gardasil have been distributed in over 100 countries.

In 2018, the quadrivalent vaccine was replaced by two doses of a 9-valent HPV vaccine, which protects against an additional 5 oncogenic HPV types (31, 33, 45, 52 and 58) – protecting against types of HPV that cause up to 90% of cases of cervical cancer.

Australia now on track to eliminate cervical cancer by 2035

Owing to the success of Gardasil and the National Cervical Screening Program, a modelling study published in October 2017 has forecasted that Australia may be the first country in the world to achieve elimination of cervical cancer within the next 20 years.

This remarkable prediction demonstrates the ultimate outcome of translational research - that is, research that translates from idea, to the lab bench, then to clinical practice and improved patient outcomes.

This move from discovery to clinical practice and international adoption demonstrates Gardasil has reached T5 on the TRI Translational Pathway.


Image: Professor Ian Frazer at The University of Queensland.



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