As the government considers recommendations for changes to cervical cancer screening, UNSW is already a leading partner in a major trial of the new technology in Victoria.
The new Human Papillomavirus (HPV) testing regime that is being considered involves a five-year test, instead of the current two-yearly Pap screening. The technology was recently approved in the US and is being piloted in the UK.
"Many women find the experience of cervical cancer screening embarrassing and difficult, so they'll welcome the proposed changes, which would mean the number of tests they undergo over their lives drops from 26 to around 10," says UNSW Associate Professor Canfell, whose group performed the effectiveness and economic modelling that supported the recommendations.
If the new testing regime is introduced, it is expected that cervical cancer rates will be reduced by a further 15%, with up to 100 more women a year being spared a cervical cancer diagnosis and up to 30 more lives saved every year.
Compass is the first large-scale clinical trial internationally to compare Pap test screening with HPV screening in an HPV-vaccinated population.
In the first phase, 5,000 Victorian women will be recruited to the trial, which Associate Professor Canfell is co-leading with Associate Professor Marion Saville, Director of the Victorian Cytology Service.
"The Compass trial will give us a pragmatic, real-world experience of HPV testing," says Associate Professor Canfell. "The women who are volunteering for the trial are helping us set up all the systems for testing, if the recommendations are taken up."
"The piloting of a new screening technology involves a lot more than just implementing the new technology in a laboratory," says Associate Professor Marion Saville. "This involves substantial changes to register operations and to information resources. It's very much about how to actually implement a new process of cervical screening in this country."
The current Compass trial is expected to be rolled out to a larger trial of 100,000 women by the end of the year.