Every year, more than 270,000 women worldwide, most of them in the prime of their lives with babies and young families, die from cervical cancer. Without immediate action, by 2030 that number is projected to rise to 500,000. It’s a human tragedy of monumental proportions, made all the more heartbreaking by the fact that cervical cancer is almost entirely preventable.
Now, thanks to a world renowned collaboration of leading BC health agencies led by Dr. Gina Ogilvie and Dr. Deborah Money at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, researchers are getting close to eliminating that statistic. “At last,” says Ogilvie, “we have the possibility to head down the road to eradication.”
Ogilvie, Canada Research Chair in Global Control of HPV-related Disease at UBC and a lead investigator with the Women’s Health Research Institute at BC Women’s, says research into the relationship between the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV) and the development of cervical cancer clearly points to HPV screening and prevention as key to ultimately eliminating the disease: “There’s no question that HPV-testing is the biggest breakthrough in preventing cervical cancer since the Pap smear.”
Thanks to Ogilvie, together with world-class collaborators like the BC Cancer Agency’s Andrew Coldman, BC Women’s has emerged as a world leader in the global fight to end cervical cancer. Their newly launched HPV FOCAL Study, which is comparing HPV and Pap test screening results, represents research that may ultimately lead to changes to cervical cancer screening approaches in the future.
Leading global change
The groundbreaking work of Ogilvie – a world-renowned expert in HPV – together with partners like Simon Dobson at CFRI and their team has already influenced global policy on cervical cancer prevention. The World Health Organization (WHO) has adopted BC Women’s two-dose HPV vaccination protocol to prevent HPV infection. On another front, BC Women’s ASPIRE Project (Advances in Screening and Prevention in Reproductive Cancers), focused in Uganda, is transforming early screening among poor and rural populations. Here, BC Women’s has rolled out an innovative program that allows women to collect their own vaginal specimens for HPV testing using a self-test kit. This simple, cost-effective initiative could save the lives of millions of women, not only in developing countries, but also among poor, rural and marginalized women in Canada.
Saving women’s lives
Every single day, young women, most of them desperately poor, die from cervical cancer due to a lack of easy access to HPV screening and early cancer detection. Ogilvie and her multi-disciplinary research team at BC Women’s Hospital are both wholly committed and perfectly placed to grow the global knowledge base and develop the tools necessary to end this scourge. It’s an effort Ogilvie knows will transform the health and lives not only of women, but also of their children and families, both here at home and around the world. Caring donors, like you, will make it possible.
Written by Ann Collette
Dr. Ogilvie has been influential in setting and directing health policy on reproductive health, sexually transmitted infections, HPV screening and the HPV vaccine, both in Canada and globally. She provides advice and consultation to national and international institutions, including the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, Public Health Agency of Canada, the World Health Organization (WHO), and Ministries of Health on STI, HIV and HPV vaccine policy and programming.
‘I’m truly delighted that our team was able to secure this highly competitive funding. It’s a tremendous honour, and an indication of the exceptional innovative and relevant research that is going on at BC Women’s and PHSA agencies. It’s a wonderful acknowledgement that here in BC, we are indeed leaders in the global effort to eliminate cervical cancer.’
As principal investigator, her research has attracted over $13 million in grants, receiving funding from PHAC, CIHR, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR), and private foundations, among others. Dr. Ogilvie has published over 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts and speaks widely at international and national research and education conferences.