An internationally renowned team of Hutchinson Center and University of Washington molecular biologists, epidemiologists, biostatisticians and clinicians who have worked together on human papillomavirus (HPV) for more than 20 years have won the American Association for Cancer Research’s Team Science Award.
The annual award recognizes an outstanding interdisciplinary research team for its innovative and meritorious science that has advanced or will likely advance cancer research, detection, diagnosis, prevention or treatment.
“This team’s work exemplifies how cancer research can dramatically impact public health,” said Dr. Margaret Foti, AACR’s chief executive officer. “The researchers’ long-term collaborations in basic science, epidemiology and clinical research played a vital role in increasing our understanding of HPV and developing the HPV vaccine, which has the potential to prevent more than half a million HPV-associated cancers each year worldwide.”
By combining molecular assays to detect and characterize HPV infections with epidemiologic approaches, the 12-member team, led by the Human Biology Division’s Dr. Denise Galloway, showed that HPVs are associated with nearly all genital-tract cancers and with a significant proportion of head and neck cancers. They conducted some of the largest case-control studies of HPV-associated cancers and revealed that a variety of exposures—notably a high number of sexual partners and early age at first intercourse—were common across most of the anogenital cancer sites. The researchers also identified factors beyond sexual activity, such as immunosuppression, that contributed to HPV infection.
HPV vaccine development
The team played a pivotal role in making virus-like particle-based vaccines a reality, from the early basic science work to the epidemiology, to the proof-of-principle clinical trial that showed a vaccine protected against HPV 16 infection and disease.
“Our team is thrilled to receive such a wonderful honor,” Galloway said. “Credit is due to the entire HPV research community— the investigators, research fellows, students and study participants—who helped to make our efforts a reality. We are delighted to have been able to contribute to an international team of scientists who collectively moved the field from a state in which the etiology of cervical cancer was not known, to now have vaccines to prevent HPV.”
The prize winning team
Galloway’s team, which includes Drs. Janet Daling, Margaret Madeleine, Barbara McKnight, Peggy Porter, Stephen Schwartz, James Hughes, Nancy Kiviat, Laura Koutsky, Constance Mao, Hisham Tamimi and Long-fu Xi, developed and tested new strategies for early detection and treatment of HPV-related cancers. Their clinical studies demonstrated the cost-effectiveness of using HPV DNA testing of clinician-collected cervical samples or self-collected vaginal samples in screening programs as well as the potential for using novel biomarkers to more accurately diagnose HPV-related cancers and precancerous lesions.
The $50,000 team prize, supported by a grant from Eli Lilly and Company, is given to affect change within the traditional cancer research culture by recognizing those individuals and institutions that value and foster interdisciplinary team science.
The award will be presented at the opening ceremony of AACR’s annual meeting on April 3 in Orlando, Fla.
Founded in 1907, AACR is the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research. Its membership includes 33,000 basic, translational and clinical researchers; health care professionals; and cancer survivors and advocates in the U.S. and more than 90 other countries.
[Adapted from an AACR news release]