Press Release: Australia assembles global preventative cancer leaders to improve cervical screening in India

Australia assembles global preventative cancer leaders to improve cervical screening in India

India bears one fifth of the world’s cervical cancer burden.

22 June 2021, Melbourne, Vellore, Mizoram, Lyon: Today, VCS Foundation, an NHMRC-funded Centre of Research Excellence in Cervical Cancer Control (C4) partner, announced it will receive $1.33 million in funding through the Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases (GACD) for research to implement cervical cancer screening in hard-to-reach and vulnerable Indian communities.

In the world’s second most populous nation, the burden of cervical cancer is high, at one-fifth of the total global burden, with death rates expected to be 60,000 people every year.

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the cause of almost all cervical cancers. The project aligns to the World Health Organization (WHO) strategy to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem worldwide by the end of the century, through a ‘triple-intervention’ approach, which sets out simple targets to place all countries on the path toward elimination by 2030.

VCS Foundation’s Medical Director Associate Professor Julia Brotherton will lead implementation research with partners in two states of India, Tamil Nadu in Southern India and Mizoram in North Eastern India, and experts on cancer and disease prevention from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute.

Julia Brotherton said, “In a country as complex and large as India we know there are significant challenges in scaling up preventive health services, particularly in rural and remote areas serving vulnerable Indian women. Cervical cancer is preventable and we hope this work will help identify and overcome some of the key challenges in reaching women to screen, as well as support their follow up when treatment is needed.”

“The $1.33 million GACD grant will enable our project group to work closely with those already engaged with vulnerable communities in India to trial new approaches through co-designing care pathways using self collection and HPV based testing, which is more accurate and less invasive for women,” Professor Brotherton said. 

Investigator Partha Basu, Deputy Head, Early Detection, Prevention and Infection Branch, International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization said, “The International Agency for Research on Cancer is very pleased to collaborate with VCS Foundation and several reputed institutions in India to identify pragmatic solutions for implementation of quality cervical cancer screening. This project will be of great value to India and will also pave the way for global cervical cancer elimination.”

The project group has a history of successful partnerships in India, including with CMC Vellore, a community-run medical school, hospital and research institute in Tamil Nadu.

Commenting on the project, Dr Anu Oommen, Community Health Department, CMC Vellore said, “We are excited to work with our experienced research and implementation partners to find scalable solutions for cervical screening in our vulnerable populations.”

This Indian-focused Cervical Cancer Screening project was one of four projects funded by the Australian Federal Government which has recently invested $5.9 million on cancer prevention among women in vulnerable communities.

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Media contact:

Luke Cuell | on behalf of VCS Foundation | [email protected] | 0458 626 578

About VCS

VCS Foundation works with Australian and international partners to achieve the World Health Organization’s goal to eliminate cervical cancer as a public health problem. Our team is committed to sharing its expertise in the implementation of HPV vaccination and cervical screening programs and the science and technology that underpin these, to ensure a cervical cancer free future for girls and women everywhere.

VCS Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation with over 50 years of expertise in cancer prevention and population health through laboratory and medical education services, establishing and operating cancer screening and vaccination registries, and conducting research and data analysis.

About C4 

The Centre for Research Excellence in Cervical Cancer Control (C4) is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Australia’s leading research funding body.

C4 brings together Australia’s leaders in cervical cancer control, in both HPV vaccination and cervical screening, with researchers from Cancer Council NSW, VCS Foundation, Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney, the University of Melbourne and Family Planning NSW. The prior work of C4 investigators has underpinned Australia’s major innovations in public health in terms of the successful delivery of HPV vaccination in girls and boys and the implementation of an HPV-based cervical screening program.

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