Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP110510 HOM Remarks- Screening of Australian Documentary 'Catching Cancer'

Screening of Australian documentary ‘Catching Cancer’
Opening Remarks by Ambassador Rod Smith
Edsa Shangri-La hotel, Mandaluyong City
10 May 2011

Secretary Enrique Ona
Congresswoman Beng Climaco
Congresswoman Emmie de Jesus
Distinguished members of the medical community
Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you for joining us this evening for the premiere screening in the Philippines of the Australian documentary “Catching Cancer”. I would like to recognise and thank distinguished Australian scientist and cervical cancer vaccine pioneer, Professor Ian Frazer, for visiting Manila to promote cervical cancer awareness.

As you are aware, May is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in the Philippines, an important public health initiative supported by the efforts and commitment of the Department of Health (DOH).

Earlier today, Professor Frazer visited Muntinlupa City’s mobile tent clinic offering cervical cancer screenings. This afternoon, the DOH and the Embassy held a forum on cervical cancer prevention and control which was an excellent opportunity for our countries to share knowledge and experiences in addressing cervical cancer.

Sadly, more than a quarter of a million women die of cervical cancer each year. According to the World Health Organization, it is the second highest cause of female cancer mortality worldwide. In the Philippines, cervical cancer is the second most prevalent cancer among women and – a little recognised fact – the fifth most prevalent for the population overall. While the subject of cancer can be daunting for many of us, exciting advances in cancer research give renewed hope for the future.

Professor Ian Frazer’s development of the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine against cervical cancer is one such advance. The vaccine – developed to prevent and treat cervical cancer – has saved generations of women. The importance of Professor Frazer’s work has been well-recognised in Australia and overseas. He was awarded the coveted Australian of the Year Award in 2006, the Howard Florey Medal for Medical Research in 2007, and Australia’s most prestigious science award, the Prime Minister's Prize for Science in 2008, among many others, for his work on papillomaviruses and their vaccines spanning over 20 years.

Professor Frazer is among a number of Australian scientists whose work in cancer research has opened new frontiers. Some of these scientists you will see in the documentary. Others include:

• Professor John Shine, recognised for a series of discoveries he made between 1975 and 1985 that furthered our understanding of how genes are turned into proteins.

• Dr Benjamin Kile, recognised for work in understanding the causes of cancer and providing insight into the mechanisms that keep blood platelets alive. Dr Kile’s major discoveries include identification of the normal function of the Erg gene, which is linked to many cancers.

• Australian researchers have also been taking part in the International Cancer Genome Consortium, leading two projects aimed to catalogue genetic changes associated with ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer.

Australian medical research has been at the forefront of Australian science and has led to significant contributions to world health. Along with Professor Frazer’s cervical cancer vaccine, pioneering Australian discoveries and innovations include the ultrasound, cochlear implant, heart pacemaker, artificial cornea, and skin polarprobe.

On ten occasions, Australians have been awarded Nobel Prizes for their groundbreaking work in science or medicine: in the fields of immunology, neurosciences, organ transplants, the development of penicillin to treat infections, to work in identifying the role played by a bacterium in gastritis and peptic ulcers.

Medical and health research across Australia is dynamic and diverse. In cancer research, major successes across Australia’s universities include the development of three cancer-fighting drugs, breast cancer treatments, and of course the cervical cancer vaccine.

Another milestone in Australian medical research will be the opening of the Translational Research Institute in 2012, of which Professor Frazer is CEO. The institute will bring together four of Australia’s pinnacle research facilities (University of Queensland's Diamantina Institute, Queensland University of Technology's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Mater Medical Research Institute, and Princess Alexandra Hospital's Centres for Health Research) with the aim of improving and accelerating medical research and translating that research into better palliative care.

Professor Frazer’s visit and tonight’s screening of “Catching Cancer” give us a deeper insight into and appreciation of the remarkable advances in cancer research. Many of us have loved ones who have suffered from cancer or remember the fear and sorrow that cancer brings. The film and the outstanding work of scientists such as Professor Frazer encourage us and give us reason to be hopeful.

I hope you have an enjoyable evening.