Papua New Guinea has one of the highest incidences of cervical cancer in the world, with death rates 12 times higher than those in Australia.
HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the cause of almost all cervical cancers. Many Western Pacific countries have no cervical screening or HPV vaccination programs and women there do not have access to cancer treatment services.
Minderoo Foundation has committed more than $8 million as foundational funding to a first-of-its-kind humanitarian and research effort to eliminate cervical cancer in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu in partnership with the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Cervical Cancer Control (C4) and other collaborators.
Cancer experts have hailed the initiative as a landmark which has the power to save the lives of 150,000 women over the long term in Papua New Guinea alone.
The project aligns with the World Health Organization strategy to eliminate cervical cancer worldwide by 2030.
At the heart of this strategy is a ‘triple-intervention’ approach, which sets out targets to place all countries on the path toward elimination:
The project aims to deliver immediate impact in saving lives as well as scaling up sustainable, in-country services for cervical cancer in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, providing a roadmap for other nations to follow.
Project partners are:
The Australian research arm will conduct modelling and analysis to inform the most efficient and effective ways to implement and then expand the initiative.
PATIENT IMPACT STORY
Caroline Henao is a cervical cancer survivor, patient advocate, and board member of the Papua New Guinea Cancer Foundation.
“To have screening, and to know that there is a way forward for them, would do so much in empowering women,” Ms Henao said. “It would also encourage them to know this disease isn’t a death sentence but very much curable if detected early.”
One of the leaders of the initiative, Professor Karen Canfell, Director of Cancer Research at Cancer Council NSW (a C4 partner), said the project would deliver real benefits to women and their families in a region of high need.
“Over the long-term, the successful implementation of the elimination strategy, catalysed by Minderoo’s investment, is expected to save the lives of 150,000 women in Papua New Guinea alone,” Professor Canfell said.
“The project will put the WHO eliminate cervical cancer concept into practice, leading the world to show how the triple-intervention strategy of HPV vaccination, HPV-based screening and cancer treatment can be introduced into a priority region. It will create a sustainable framework for attracting additional partners and will act as a catalyst for cervical cancer elimination globally.”