Australia takes EPICC step to cervical cancer elimination

A consortium led by the Daffodil Centre will accelerate the World Health Organization’s strategy to eliminate cervical cancer thanks to new funding from the Australian Government.

Australia is stepping up its global leadership in the elimination of cervical cancer, with the announcement today of a $12.5 million Australian Government regional aid grant to a nongovernment consortium headed by the Daffodil Centre, a joint venture of Cancer Council NSW and the University of Sydney.

The Elimination Partnership in the Indo-Pacific for Cervical Cancer (EPICC) is the largest ever initiative of its kind, leveraging Australian, international and in-country partner expertise to accelerate the World Health Organization’s strategy for the elimination of cervical cancer.

Director of the Daffodil Centre, Professor Karen Canfell, said that while Australia was on track to be the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer, with a national strategy also released today, cervical cancer remained a leading cause of death in women in many neighbouring countries.

“Cervical cancer leads to huge global inequities in health outcomes, with countries like Australia on the cusp of reducing it to the status of a rare disease at the same time as it causes a terrible burden for women, families and entire communities on our doorstep,” Professor Canfell said.

“This can all be turned around if we can implement the WHO Strategy for cervical cancer elimination, utilising well-established technologies – vaccination against human papillomavirus, which causes almost all cervical cancers, screening for early intervention, and improved access to treatment.

“EPICC sets out a plan to work with partner countries in the region to put these interventions on a sustainable footing, with the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in the short term and millions over the century.”

Portrait photo of Professor Karen Canfell.

Professor Karen Canfell

Professor Canfell said the proposal for EPICC drew on the success of the current Eliminating Cervical Cancer in the Western Pacific (ECCWP) project, funded by Australia’s Minderoo Foundation, which has led to sustainable cervical cancer interventions in Vanuatu and the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Professor Claire Wakefield, Director of Minderoo Foundation’s Cancer Mission, said Minderoo was delighted that the early results from ECCWP helped to make the case for Australian Government funding of the program to support more women in the region.

“Our focus is to address the inequity experienced by women and communities who do not have access to screening, vaccines and treatment, and support them by providing sustainable solutions,” Professor Wakefield said. “Accelerating the elimination of cervical cancer in our region is one of the strongest investments we can make to end this preventable disease.

“We commend the Australian Government for its leadership in supporting EPICC and look forward to ongoing opportunities to work with multiple partners on improving cervical cancer outcomes worldwide.”

The University of Sydney also contributed funding to the EPICC consortium to support its efforts to eliminate cervical cancer.

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