Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are the major cause of cervical cancer, recognised worldwide as one of the biggest killers among all cancers in women. In 2006, the release of world’s first vaccine protecting against infection with HPV was hailed as a major medical milestone.
The HPV vaccine was developed by a team of University of Queensland researchers led by Professor Ian Frazer, in parallel with US research groups at the National Cancer Institute, University of Rochester, and Georgetown University Medical Centre. In 2006, Professor Ian Frazer was named Australian of the Year for his work, which was described as having ‘the potential to eradicate cervical cancer within a generation.’
Four out of five people are believed to have been exposed to HPV, which not only causes genital warts and cervical cancer, but is also linked to the development of a number of other cancers, including those of the anus, penis, vulva, vagina, mouth and throat.
Australia was the first country to introduce an HPV vaccination program, offering the vaccine free of charge to girls and 2007, and extending the program to include teenage boys in 2012. The vaccine has proven a huge success story, shown to effectively protect against infection with two types of HPV that cause about 75% of all cases of cervical cancer, as well as two types of HPV causing about 90% of cases of genital warts. It has also been shown to protect against most cases of vaginal cancer and about half of vulvar cancer cases.
Now available in 120 countries, more than 100 million doses of the HPV vaccines Gardasil™ and Cervarix™ have been distributed worldwide.
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