Today, a group of Australian women became the world’s first to receive a breakthrough vaccine protecting them against most cervical cancers. The drug called Gardasil, was developed by Queensland scientist Ian Frazer. This drug helps to halt the spread of sexually-transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes 70 percent of cervical cancer.
The vaccine also protects against two types of HPV that cause genital warts, and is now available for girls aged 9 to 26 years. About 800 Australian women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and one third will die.
“Up until now everything has been theoretical (but) now it becomes practical we actually start doing something to prevent cervical cancer,” Prof Frazer said.
“I look forward to a world where cervical cancer will no longer kill young women, where, like smallpox, the only place it will be found will be in the history books.”
Sydney-based gynaecological oncologist Gerry Wain welcomed the vaccine, saying it would dramatically reduce the number of women needing surgery.
“But the message has to be very clear that this is an additional way of fighting cervical cancer,” said Dr Wain, scientific director of the NSW Cervical Screening Program.
The three doses over six months will cost $450 but the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee is considering whether Gardasil will be added to the national immunisation program.