Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award 2017 Goes to NCI’s Douglas R. Lowy & John T. Schiller for Technological Advances That Enabled Development of HPV Vaccines for Prevention of Cervical Cancer and Other Tumors Caused by HPV

The 2017 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award honors two scientists whose technological advances enabled the development of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, which prevent cervical cancer and other tumors. Dr. Douglas R. Lowy and Dr. John T. Schiller (both from the National Cancer Institute) took a bold, but calculated, approach toward a major public-health problem whose solution required them to vault formidable hurdles. They devised a blueprint for several safe and effective vaccines that promise to slash the incidence of cervical cancer and mortality, the fourth most common cancer among women worldwide, as well as other malignancies and disorders that arise from human papillomaviruses. More than 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed annually, and each year, more than 250,000 women die from the malignancy. In the 1980s, Dr. Harald zur Hausen (2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine) linked the disease to infection with certain types of HPV. Two of the viruses—HPV16 and 18—give rise to about 70 percent of cases, and approximately ten additional types account for the vast majority of the remaining 30 percent. HPV16 and 18 plus these other “high-risk” HPVs also underlie many cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and throat.
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