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World-renowned Vancouver doctor to oversee $20M in research funding
A fresh injection of $10 million from the federal government and a matching $10 million from the BC Women’s Health Foundation will be overseen by an internationally recognized leader in cervical cancer research based out of Vancouver.
Dr. Gina Ogilvie, a UBC professor and a researcher at BC Women’s hospital, has been working tirelessly for years to promote vaccines and early detection that she says already have the ability to make cervical cancer a thing of the past.
“We have all the tools to do it,” she told CTV News at BC Women’s Hospital. “Now it’s a question of how do we optimise those tools?”
The federal government is contributing to ongoing work to promote, test and expand the vaccination program for the HPV vaccine, which has proven incredibly effective in preventing infections of the sexually transmitted disease that can develop into cervical and other genital cancers.
"The research here will examine how effective one dose of HPV vaccine is among girls who've already been vaccinated, review how effective the HPV vaccine is in British Columbia and improve access to cervical screening by piloting an HPV self-collection program among rural, indigenous and new Canadian women,” said federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor as she announced the funding in Vancouver.
Much of Ogilvie’s work has gone into educating the public about the link between HPV and cervical cancer and why the vaccine is important for both boys and girls to receive;. It’s been free for all B.C. students in Grade 6 since 2017. One of the vaccines, Gardasil, is approved for use in Canada by females nine to 45 years old and males nine to 26. Health Canada says up to 75 per cent of the population will contract HPV in their lifetime and may not realize it because they may not display exterior symptoms like genital warts and it can clear up on its own. When it doesn’t, the cells can mutate and turn into cancer of the mouth and throat, which are predominantly diagnosed in men, or cancer in the genitals.
B.C. researchers have worked to push the vaccines from three mandatory doses to two and Ogilvie hopes money from Tuesday’s announcement will help develop a single-shot immunity to HPV, and thus cervical cancer.
"Complete elimination [of cervical cancer] seems like such an incredible reach, but you have the World Health Organization, large consortiums really believing this because we actually have the tools,” she said.
“We have a very effective, safe vaccine and we have a screening approach that can detect pre-cancerous lesions…what we’re really trying to do is optimize this regimen."