Karen Canfell D.Phil. FAHMS is the inaugural Director of the Daffodil Centre and is a Professor within the Faculty of Medicine and Health at the University of Sydney. She is Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences, an NHMRC Leadership Fellow, and holds a D.Phil (PhD) in epidemiology from the University of Oxford. She is an epidemiologist, modeller and translationally-focused population health researcher, and her research program focuses on providing policy-makers with an evidence-base for decision making across the cancer control continuum. Karen is a past keynote speaker at the World Cancer Conference and World Cancer Leader’s Summit, a past NHMRC national research excellence award-winner, and the 2021 recipient of Cancer Australia’s Jeanne Ferris Award for her contributions to gynecological cancer research.
Karen has led multiple impact and economic evaluations for government agencies in Australia and internationally. For example, her team’s work underpins the transformation of the National Cervical Screening Program in Australia, which in 2017 moved to HPV DNA testing to replace Pap smears. In collaboration with the VCS Foundation, she initiated Compass, Australia’s largest clinical trial (76,000 women), and the first trial internationally to assess cervical screening in an HPV-vaccinated population, directly supporting the implementation of new cervical screening program, acting as a sentinel experience for safety monitoring and evaluation. Professor Canfell currently leads an NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Cervical Cancer Control (C4) which together Australia’s leaders in cervical cancer control, in both HPV vaccination and cervical screening, and includes researchers from Cancer Council NSW, the VCS Foundation, the Kirby Institute (UNSW), and the University of Melbourne.
Karen is active in global health and as one of the co-leads of the WHO Cervical Cancer Elimination Consortium (CCEMC), has led the development of the WHO impact and cost-effectiveness case for cervical cancer elimination. This work was presented at the Executive Board of the World Health Assembly in 2020 and is cited in the WHO strategic plan for elimination, and her team is now supporting the WHO in the development of updated 2021 clinical guidelines for cervical screening. In March 2021, with key C4 collaborators including Prof Marion Saville, Prof Andrew Valley and Adjunct Prof Deborah Bateson, the C4 and Minderoo Foundation announced the Eliminate Cervical Cancer in the Western Pacific (ECCWP) initiative – this is a large-scale implementation and research collaboration arising from C4 research, foundationally supported by an $8.1M grant from the Minderoo foundation.
Drawing on a strategic, multidisciplinary approach – using modelling, linked data analysis, clinical trials, stakeholder engagement, and implementation science – that has successfully influenced cervical cancer prevention policy in Australia and internationally, Karen has established a broader research program, including research across a range of tumour sites, to provide policymakers with an evidence-base for decision making in cancer control. For example, her team’s work supported screening and modelling for 2017 revisions to the National Clinical Management Guidelines for Colorectal Cancer. She also leads a major $3.6M MRFF program of work (‘Cancer-PPP’) to predict cancer incidence and prevalence in Australia. In response to the emerging healthcare needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, she initiated and co-leads the Covid-19 and Cancer Global Modelling Consortium (CCGMC.org), is a collaborative endeavour to model the global impact of the pandemic on cancer prevention/risk, screening, and outcomes. Key partners of the CCGMC include the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), The International Cancer Screening Network (ICSN), the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC) and The Daffodil Centre.
Karen chairs Cancer Council Australia’s Cancer Screening and Immunisation Committee. She serves as a member of the board for the International Papillomavirus Society, and the Asia Oceania Research Organisation on Genital Infections and Neoplasia (AOGIN) and is past Board member of the International Papillomavirus Society. She co-chaired the Executive Scientific Committee for IPVC 2018 in Sydney, the major international meeting in papillomavirus research.