EXCLUSIVE Australian scientists wipe out cervical cancer
CERVICAL cancer will be eradicated around the globe, with Australia leading the way as the first nation to be totally cancer-free.
Scientists will today declare that the human papillomavirus vaccine, developed by Australian scientists to stop the cancer-causing virus in its tracks, will completely wipe out the disease.
The breakthrough — being compared to the success of the anti-polio campaign of the 1950s — has already seen HPV infections drop to just one in 100 in Australian women.
That is down from one in five a decade ago after a nineyear vaccination campaign.
THE end of cervical cancer is in sight and Australia is likely to be the first nation free of the killer disease thanks to the groundbreaking human papillomavirus vaccine.
As new research reveals the rate of HPV has dropped from one in five young Australian women a decade ago to just one in 100, leading cervical cancer experts will today announce that the disease is expected to be eradicated worldwide in the next 30 to 40 years.
Australia, having developed the vaccine and then led the way with the HPV immunisation program, is forecast to be the first nation regarded as free of cervical cancer, according to the International Papillomavirus Society, which advises the World Health Organisation and leads global policy on the disease.
HPV is responsible for almost all cervical cancer cases but, because it can take decades for cancer to develop, the full impact of Australia’s nine- year immunisation program will take years to filter through.
More than 800 Australian women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and about 220 of those die.
But future generations will be free of the disease.
While survival rates have risen dramatically in many other forms of cancers, none has been eradicated.
IPVS member Suzanne Garland, from The Royal Women’s Hospital and the University of Melbourne, said doctors now had the tools to eradicate cervical cancer and only needed political will and the public’s determination to wipe it out.
“We are forecasting that over the next 30 to 40 years, rates of cervical cancer will drop from around the current 1000 cases a year in Australia to just a few,” Prof Garland said.
“Our national HPV immunisation program for both boys and girls, combined with our cervical cancer population screening, means we are well positioned to be the first country to effectively end this deadly cancer.”
To mark International HPV Awareness Day today, the IPVS is publishing its statement in the journal Papillomavirus Virus Research.
WHO will meet later this year to formalise the eradication plan.
Modelling shows that expansion of health programs to engage those not currently vaccinated or screened for HPV is predicted to eliminate the disease within decades.
Cancer Council Victoria screening manager Kate Broun said it was incredible to foresee the end of a cancer but it would require higher vaccination rates in “underscreening groups” such as indigenous Australians, those from culturally diverse backgrounds and the economically disadvantaged.
“We have seen it with things like polio a long time ago but not in terms of cancer,” she said.
“Cervical cancer is unique because we do know it is directly caused by a virus.”
The latest research from Prof Garland’s team shows that the HPV rate has dropped from 22.7 per cent to just 1.1 per cent in the past 10 years among women aged 18 to 24.