Collaborative cervical cancer program established in the Western Pacific through landmark investment

A mother and her baby

Researchers from The Daffodil Centre to co-lead major collaborative cervical cancer program

The NHMRC-funded Centre of Research Excellence in Cervical Cancer Control (C4) has announced a first-of-its-kind humanitarian and research effort to eliminate cervical cancer in the Western Pacific. 

Within C4, this initiative has been led by Professor Karen Canfell, Director of The Daffodil Centre; Professor Marion Saville, Executive Director, VCS Foundation; Professor Andrew Vallely, Kirby Institute UNSW Sydney and PNG Institute of Medical Research, Goroka; and Professor Deborah Bateson, Medical Director, Family Planning NSW. 

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the cause of almost all cervical cancers. Many countries in the Western Pacific currently lack any cervical screening or HPV vaccination programs, and women do not have access to cancer treatment services. Papua New Guinea has one of the highest burdens of cervical cancer in the Western Pacific and globally, with death rates 12 times greater than those in Australia. 

The Western Pacific project was catalysed by an $8.1 million conditional grant by the Minderoo Foundation’s Collaborate Against Cancer initiative and a signed Memorandum of Understanding with Cancer Council NSW to establish some detail on the new project. 

The project aligns to the World Health Organization (WHO) strategy to eliminate cervical cancer worldwide by the end of the century, through a ‘triple-intervention’ approach, which sets out simple targets to place all countries on the path toward elimination by 2030.  

Minderoo’s conditional grant of $AUD8.1 million – when supported by additional funding and in-kind support from other partners – will provide almost $30 million to enable C4 and in-country partners to set Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu on a path to eliminating cervical cancer.  

The Eliminate Cervical Cancer in the Western Pacific project will be core to a range of active and emerging regional and local partnerships in the Western Pacific region, which will be essential to achieving cervical cancer elimination worldwide. 

C4 and Minderoo formally launched the Eliminate Cervical Cancer in the Western Pacific program at the 5th annual Preventing Cervical Cancer Conference on Friday 26 March, which was held in partnership with the Asia-Oceania Research Organisation in Genital Infection and Neoplasia (AOGIN) and APEC.  

Throughout the project, the partners will: 

  • Work with health officials in PNG and Vanuatu, leveraging opportunities to build and prioritise existing health services. 
  • Fast-track HPV vaccines for girls and cervical screening for women in PNG and Vanuatu and deliver training and equipment to build healthcare capacity. 
  • The Australian research arm will conduct modelling and analysis to inform the most efficient and effective ways to implement and then expand the initiative.

The initiative will join forces with the Asia Development Bank, diagnostic testing service provider Cepheid and the Frazer Family Foundation (set up by cervical cancer vaccine discoverer, Professor Ian Frazer), with in-kind contributions from the governments of PNG and Vanuatu, to obtain vaccines, deliver HPV testing and build health system capacity. 

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