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The gift that keeps on giving

Friday 11 August 2017

Gardasil, the gift that keeps on giving

The latest breakthrough

News broke recently that a new form of the cervical cancer vaccine may almost eliminate the disease, according to research.

Currently the Gardasil vaccination, which in Australia is being given to students in their first year of secondary school, protects against 70 per cent of the HPV infections that cause cervical cancer.

A Melbourne-based study has found that the new Gardasil 9 vaccine, which is being used in the US and New Zealand, protected against 93 per cent of HPV related cancers.

Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee is currently reviewing whether the new vaccine will be rolled out in Australia with a decision to be made later this month.

In addition, Gardasil 9, if administered before the age of 14, would only require two doses – the current vaccine requires three doses.

The Demise of Cervical Cancer?

Close to 80 per cent of 15-year-old girls in Australia are currently immunised against the HPV virus according to figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Targeted health campaigns are looking to further increase this figure. This, combined with the new vaccine if approved, could see cervical cancer almost eradicated in Australia.

It's not just for the girls…

It is not only females that are able to benefit from Gardasil (although originally developed for girls). The HPV virus does not discriminate between the sexes and men can contract it just as easily as women. HPV infection can lead to penile, head and neck and anal cancer in men.

Boys aged 12-13 are now being vaccinated against the HPV virus in Australia as part of the National HPV Vaccination Program. Immunisation rates from 2014-15 reveal that 57 per cent of boys were fully immunised against the disease.

World-First Clinical Trial at the PAH Campus

The PA Hospital Campus is where Professor Ian Frazer and Jian Zhou's research findings pioneered the development of Gardasil. 26 years after this research began, Professor Frazer is now working with Professor Sandro Porceddu to use the HPV vaccine to treat currently incurable secondary head and neck cancers.

Currently, about 25% of HPV-related cancers will return following treatment and be considered incurable.

The PA Research Foundation are funding a world-first clinical trial where administration of the HPV anti-virus will produce antibodies that will attack cancer cells that have parts of the virus expressed on their surface. This immunotherapy approach essentially turns the light on the cancer so it is no longer hidden from the immune system, and hence the immune system kicks in to respond.

To date the team have successfully demonstrated that the HPV vaccine elicits an immune response and neutralises cancer in mice models. The aim of this study is to confirm the delivery of the vaccine is safe in humans and that it can elicit the same immune response.

If proven to be safe it will rapidly lead to large-scale confirmatory clinical trials and potentially revolutionize the way we treat head and neck cancer.

You can donate to help support the next big HPV breakthrough here