Vaccination Programme Aims to Eradicate HPV for Generation of Women; Health Wales Is Highlighting the Cream of Young Research Talent in a Series of Articles about and by the Welsh Crucible Researchers. Dr Ned Powell Is Studying How a Common Virus Can Cause Cancer

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Byline: Dr Ned Powell

CERVICAL cancer, the third most common cancer in women, is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) - an extremely common sexuallytransmitted virus that most of us will get at some point in our life.

In most cases HPV infection is completely harmless and the body gets rid of it in less than a year without any lasting effects.

But in a small number of people, the infection persists and may lead to cancer, sometimes many years later.

The work I do has three parts - we investigate how common HPV infection is in the population (around a third of Welsh women in their twenties have a current HPV infection); we explore the basic biology of HPV infection; and we try to improve treatment of the diseases caused by HPV.

There are several reasons I love my job. Firstly, cancer touches nearly all our lives, and it's a privilege to do research that contributes to fighting this disease.

Secondly, I trained initially as a microbiologist and then as a cancer biologist, and HPV unites these interests.

Lastly, this is a really exciting time to be working with HPV. The cervical cancer-HPV story represents a huge success for science in the war against cancer.

It is less than 20 years since the link between HPV and cervical cancer was conclusively made, but as anyone with teenage daughters will know, we are now embarking on a vaccination programme that has the potential to virtually eradicate this disease for the next generation of Welsh women. For the time being, however, it is vital women protect themselves against cervical cancer by attending routine screening, including women who have received the HPV vaccine. Wales, and the School of Medicine in Cardiff in particular, is a great place to work as close collaboration between medical doctors, basic scientists and organisations like Cervical Screening Wales means the best science informs patient care as quickly as possible. …