Professor Frazer seeks vaccine for skin cancer

Professor Ian FrazerChair of the ACRF Medical Research Advisory committee (and co-creator of the cervical cancer vaccine), Professor Ian Frazer is currently working on a world-first strategy to combat skin cancer.

“This group of cancers (skin cancers)…may be started off by a virus infection – which presents a great opportunity, because the idea of vaccinating to prevent a cancer is enormously appealing,” Professor Frazer said.

Professor Frazer believes some virus types, including the wart virus or HPV, are embedded in the layers of the skin, and they pose a skin cancer risk when people with damaged or weak immune systems are overexposed to the sun.

The investigation into a skin cancer vaccine builds on 25 years of study into how the immune system works in the skin.

In 2008 Professor Frazer announced his vaccine had proven successful on animals, and now all he requires is the funds to continue this ground-breaking cancer research in human clinical trials.

“The technology now exists for me to test my theory – it is very powerful but also very expensive,” he said.

“Using this tool we will go hunting for the fingerprints of the virus or viruses present.”

Up to 400,000 Australians are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, and Professor Frazer’s treatment targets some types (squamous cell carcinoma in particular) of this potentially deadly disease.

Professor Frazer’s theory that we can teach the body to fight particular cancer-causing viruses has already resulted in the development of a cervical cancer vaccine – and ACRF is very proud to have played a key role in the discovery process by providing seed-funding back in 1999.