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We were delighted to admit Professor Ian Frazer, the Australian immunologist responsible for the HPV vaccine Gardasil, as an Honorary Fellow of RCPI on 9 July. Professor Frazer, who was a keynote speaker at RCPI's conference 'HPV - Vaccination and Society' held on Monday 9th July, was awarded the Fellowship in recognition of his pioneering work to eliminate the HPV virus.
Professor Frazer is a clinician scientist, and trained as a clinical immunologist in Scotland. As a professor at the University of Queensland, he leads a research group working at TRI in Brisbane, Australia on the immunobiology of epithelial cancers. He is recognised as co-inventor of the technology enabling the HPV vaccines, currently used worldwide to help prevent cervical cancer.
Prof Frazer’s contribution to global health cannot be understated. Referred to as the “man who saved a million lives” he has been a champion of vaccination. Over 250,000 women die from cervical cancer annually, the vast majority of them in the developing world. As a result of Prof Frazer’s and colleagues research this horrific disease could now be eliminated in the next few decades.
The simple message is that we have a vaccine that is shown to be 100% effective in preventing cervical cancer
Professor Ian FrazerImmunologist
The conference entitled 'The opportunity to eliminate HPV-related Cancers' focused on the importance of vaccination, and the adoption of HPV testing for early detection of HPV related cancers in both boys and girls.
It was well attended and generated widespread coverage both in the national and regional media, and included powerful and moving talks from patient advocate Laura Brennan, and author and cancer survivor Emily Hourican. Professor Frazer spoke to a number of journalists, explaining how the introduction of more advanced smear testing has the potential to spare women in Ireland from going on to develop cervical cancer or dying of the disease. You can listen back to Professor Frazer’s interview on RTE Radio Morning Ireland here RTE Morning Ireland-Prof Ian Frazer, 9 July
On the importance of extending the HPV vaccine programme to boys Professor Mary Horgan, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and a Consultant in Infectious Diseases says extending the HPV vaccine programme to boys is essential and must be urgently introduced.
“While the HPV vaccine is currently offered to girls to protect them against cervical cancer, it is essential that boys are also protected from cancers, such as those of the head and neck that are often caused by HPV infection. There is an approximate 20% increase in oropharyngeal (throat) cancers. Nearly 50% of this rise in oropharyngeal disease is directly related to HPV, with almost 80% of those occurring in men, yet there is little awareness of the risks to men.”
“Recent research to gauge awareness of HPV-related infections and cancers in men found that about 60% of Irish adults are aware that it can affect both men and women. And worryingly 87% believe they have never been exposed to the virus.
While the HPV vaccine is currently offered to girls to protect them against cervical cancer, it is essential that boys are also protected from cancers, such as those of the head and neck that are often caused by HPV infection. There is an approximate 20% increase in oropharyngeal (throat) cancers. Nearly 50% of this rise in oropharyngeal disease is directly related to HPV, with almost 80% of those occurring in men, yet there is little awareness of the risks to men
Professor Mary HorganPresident of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and a Consultant in Infectious Diseases
Dr Corinna Sadlier, Consultant in Infectious Diseases, who spoke at the event about the case for gender neutral vaccination, says that as the burden of HPV-related disease is shared by both males and females and that boys should also be offered the opportunity to receive the vaccine.
“While progress has been made in increasing HPV vaccine uptake rates in girls in Ireland which will confer some indirect protection to boys, we will not get to a point of elimination of this potentially serious infection without a rollout of vaccination and provision of direct protection to boys also” Dr Sadlier says. “Parents need to inform themselves about the risks associated with HPV infection in boys by asking their GPs and referring to reliable websites, such as the World Health Organisation and accredited HSE websites.”
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