Queensland set to trial new vaccine to treat head and neck cancers

A POTENTIALLY life-saving cancer vaccine developed by former Australian of the Year Immunologist Professor Ian Frazer will be trialled in Queensland, thanks to funding from the State Government.

Professor Frazer and Dr Jian Zhou first discovered a therapeutic vaccine for the human papillomavirus in 1990.

Now, thanks entirely to the help of Advance Queensland’s Ignite Ideas Fund, Professor Frazer will investigate the use of the vaccine in treating head and neck cancers.


Admedus Immunotherapies is working on demonstrating clinical proof of concept that the vaccine could potentially be used to treat the 600,000 new cases of all HPV-associated cancers recorded globally each year.

Professor Frazer said virus-associated cancers made up 20 percent of the cancer burden worldwide.

“Unfortunately, conventional treatments are not always successful,” Professor Frazer said.

“Harnessing the immune system is a new way to treat these virus-associated cancers.

“Our research is testing an exciting new approach to cancer treatment, by targeting virus proteins within the virus-associated cancers.

“The body’s defences against infection know how to fight viruses and can be taught to recognise and fight the virus components hiding within the cancer.”

Admedus Immunotherapies received $250,000 in Ignite Ideas funding to carry out a clinical trial of the new vaccine which is due to be completed by early 2019.

Admedus Immunotherapies CEO Neil Finlayson said the HPV vaccine had successfully treated tumours in mice.

Mr Finlayson said the next step was to carry out a clinical trial in Queensland before taking it forward into a larger study in partnership with a pharmaceutical company.

“Head and neck cancer is rising in incidence, and while chemo-radiation therapy has a good prognosis, in about 20 percent of cases, the cancer will metastasise,” Mr Finlayson said.

“While there are only 25,000 cases of HPV-associated head and neck cancers globally each year, demonstrated clinical proof of concept of the vaccine’s effectiveness in treatment would mean the HPV vaccine could potentially be used to treat all HPV-associated cancers.

“Professor Frazer had conducted two previous clinical trials of HPV immunotherapy and this new project is focused on the growing field of immuno-onocology”.

Innovation Minister Leeanne Enoch said the project, in which Admedus Immunotherapies is working with Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital, had the potential to become a billion-dollar market within three years of being approved.

“When Professor Ian Frazer and Dr Jian Zhou discovered a vaccine for the human papillomavirus in 1990, the health of women around the world changed for the better,” Ms Enoch said.

“This project has enormous potential – from saving lives around the world to reinforcing Queensland’s reputation as a place to conduct and invest in research and clinical development.”

Health Minister Cameron Dick said it was exciting to see the government’s efforts to support world-class health and biotechnology companies such as Admedus bearing fruit.

“This is fantastic news. It highlights how medical research and a focus on innovation can deliver the very latest, world-class health services and care for Queenslanders,” Mr Dick said.

“This type of home-grown innovation can not only transform the lives of Queensland patients, but those of people right across the world.

“Here in Queensland, and particularly in Brisbane, we are well on our way to becoming a key regional and global hub for health and biotechnology investment and innovation.

“The funding being provided to Admedus both stimulates the health and medical research sector and ensures we are creating the jobs of the future.”

The Ignite Ideas Fund is part of the $420 million Advance Queensland initiative aiming to turn ideas into actions by investing in research and technologies, attracting new investment, building global partnerships and encouraging businesses to start and grow in Queensland.