Dr. Nubia Muñoz wins Global Health Award for cancer research

The Canadian Embassy in Colombia and the University of Rosario recently hosted a conference to highlight the research of Dr. Nubia Muñoz, this year’s recipient of the Canada Gairdner Global Health Award, directed at health issues pertaining to developing countries.

Dr. Eduardo Franco speaking at the conference with Dr. Nubia Muñoz on his left.

The Gairdner Foundation selected Dr. Muñoz for this prestigious award for her research that defined the link between the human papilloma virus (HPV) and cervical cancer on a global level which led to the development of a vaccine for the virus.

Dr. Muñoz’s presentation was followed by a lecture by Dr. Eduardo Franco from McGill University on the role of HPV in cervical cancer screening and a roundtable discussion with all participants.

The conference addressed three basic themes, the natural history of HPV infection, the effectiveness of the vaccine and its impact in countries that administer the vaccine as well as the effectiveness of HPV as an early detection strategy for the prevention of cervical cancer.

In studies, the vaccine showed results demonstrating its effectiveness for primary prevention of cervical cancer in women. It also showed that the vaccine is effective in preventing re-infection of HPV in women who have previously been treated. These studies show that HPV vaccine will go a long way in preventing cervical cancer in populations that have been vaccinated.

Finally, despite these advances, education campaigns, self-care and prevention measures play a crucial role in the control of cervical cancer.

Another conclusion was that it would not be possible to implement a mass HPV vaccination campaign in Colombia due to lack of resources and other health priorities in Colombia.  However, during his stay in Bogotá, Dr. Eduardo Franco noted that this event could be used a stepping stone for future collaborative efforts between McGill and Rosario University and expressed an interest in working with the Canadian Embassy in 2010 to develop a collaborative agreement for future research.

Dr. John Dirks, Director of the Gairdner Foundation, and Dr. Sheila Robinson, the Foundation’s Director for International Relations, flew from Toronto to join representatives from the National Cancer Institute, various universities, local health authorities, and the Méderi University Hospital, at the event.

“This year was the first year the Gairdner Foundation has presented an award to someone from Latin America, and we hope this is the beginning of deepening links between Canadian and Colombian researchers.” – Dr. John Dirks