Brisbane teens receive first cancer vaccine shots

UQ Professor Ian Frazer administered the first shots of the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil in Queensland this afternoon at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Rochedale sisters Emma and Rachel McMillan were the first teenage recipients of the Australian-made vaccine which Professor Frazer and his late research partner Dr Jian Zhou helped create.

The vaccine prevents four of dozens of strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which cause genital warts and cervical cancer.

The prescription-only vaccine is distributed in Australia and New Zealand by Melbourne based pharmaceutical manufacturer CSL and distributed worldwide by US drugmaker Merck & Co.

It sells for $465 for a three-dose shot but there are plans to have it considered for subsidy under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and eventually added to the national vaccination program for girls aged 12.

Professor Frazer, the immunologist named 2006 Australian of the Year for his team's work on the vaccine, is the Director of UQ's Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research.

Queensland Treasurer Anna Bligh announced a new Senior Smart State Fellowship at the vaccine launch in honour of Dr Zhou.

Ms Bligh said the three-year, $450,000 Jian Zhou Fellowship would be offered to a Queenslander to advance research and development in immunology and cancer research.

The State Government will contribute $100,000 a year for three years, matched by a $50,000-a-year commitment from CSL.

Professor Zhou's son Andreas, a 20-year-old industrial design student, said he was proud of his father's legacy.

"We're really happy that the vaccine has come through with 100 percent on the test trials but also really sad because my father can't be here with us today," Mr Zhou said.

"We're happy it's finally out there and people can start getting vaccinated."

Gardasil has been approved for use in girls and women aged nine to 26 in Australia and the US.

Cervical cancer kills about 270,000 women worldwide each year.

HPV causes abnormal cells or tissue growth on the feet, hands, vocal cords, mouth and genitals.

About 60 types of HPV have been identified so far with each strand infecting certain parts of the body.

UQ's main commercialisation company, UniQuest licensed the vaccine technology to CSL in 1994.

The vaccine, predicted to become an international "blockbuster" drug, is expected to become one of the first Australian pharmaceutical successes to result in a fair share of economic flow back into the country.

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MEDIA: Anton Sanker (61-412-057-512) or Miguel Holland at UQ Communications (61-7-3365-2619).


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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