ACRF research funds critical to keeping international edge: Frazer

The AProfessor Ian FrazerCRF extends its congratulations to Professor Ian FrazerAustralian of the Year 2006.

Professor Frazer, from Brisbane, was given the award for his outstanding medical research. The founder and leader of the University of Queensland’s Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research, Professor Frazer has proven the link between cervical cancers and the papilloma virus.

After almost 20 years of research, he has developed a vaccine with the potential to eradicate cervical cancer within a decade.

The vaccine is in the final stages of world-wide trials. It has been proven to prevent infection and reduces pap smear abnormalities by 90%. Expected to be on the market by the end of 2006, his preventive vaccine will revolutionise women’s health in Australia and across the globe. Currently, the disease affects 500,000 women each year.

Professor Frazer, guest speaker at the ACRF Chairman’s Dinner, was helped in his quest to develop the vaccine by a $1million ACRF grant to the Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research in 1999.

This massive leap forward highlights the importance of large intercessional grants – like those of the ACRF – to ensuring Australia is at the forefront of global research.

“The ACRF provided support for our group at the time that we were expanding to take on more translational research – getting the results of the basic lab work out into the clinic. The support allowed us to leverage a further $2m from the Queensland Government and from the University of Queensland and gave us much needed new laboratory space on the Princess Alexandra Hospital campus,” Frazer said.

He added that the Australian Cancer Research Foundation filled a “significant niche” in cancer research, with its large infrastructure grants allowing Australian research groups to retain a competitive edge internationally.

“Internationally, advances in cancer biology and cancer therapy are more than ever dependent on ‘big science’ requiring access to expensive technology, and on networking between basic science groups, clinician scientists, and practicing clinicians in an environment where clinical research is not only permitted but positively encouraged.

“For Australia to build on its past successes and retain a place on the world stage will require ongoing commitment to funding of dedicated research facilities and to provision of staff with the appropriate training, skills, and opportunities to conduct world class research,” Frazer said.

As for the future of cancer research in Australia, Frazer said that the focus was translational research underpinned by good basic research.

“Breakthroughs rarely come when they’re expected, and major advances in the management of cancer don’t come only from clinicians doing cancer research.

“If you can inspire bright people to tackle important issues, the improved understanding will lead eventually to practical benefits for patients,” he said.

“The critical and rate-limiting step is always funding – funding to provide competitive infrastructure and adequate salaries, sufficient to attract and retain the brightest minds in research, funding so that basic science is well done even if there isn’t an immediately practical application, and funding so that all patients who wish to get the opportunity to take part in well designed and well supported clinical trials,” he added.

For Australian statistics on cervical cancer, visit the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) website, and click on the ‘Incidence’ PDF information sheet. Go to AIWH website…

For more information, please contact David Brettell at ACRF on 02 9223 7833.

To contact Professor Ian Frazer, call Anton Sanker, Business Manager at UQ’s Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research on 07 3240 5938.

To read more about the ACRF’s grant to the Centre for Immunology and Cancer Research (University of Queensland) click here.