HPV Scientists Will be Honored for Cancer Prevention Vaccine Work

April 10, 2007

Three scientists will receive the Wilmot Cancer Center's Inspiration Award for their outstanding contribution to cancer prevention.

The potential for a new vaccine to eliminate cervical cancer caused by the human papillomavirus, or HPV, will be celebrated during the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center’s eighth annual Discovery Ball on Saturday, April 28, at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center.

University of Rochester Medical Center scientists Richard Reichman, M.D., William Bonnez, M.D., and Robert Rose, Ph.D., will receive Wilmot’s Inspiration Award for their roles in the development of a vaccine to combat HPV invection and prevent cervical cancer. 

“These researchers have made an incredible contribution to the war on cancer and this new vaccine will save lives,” said Richard I. Fisher, M.D., director of the Wilmot Cancer Center and vice president for Clinical Services at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “These scientists’ innovation and determination is an inspiration to us all.”

The Inspiration Award honors individuals who offer hope to people with cancer.  Previous honorees include the late James P. Wilmot, Syracuse University basketball coach Jim Boeheim, advocate Judy von Bucher, former Xerox CEO David Kearns, and the late New York Yankee and McQuaid baseball coach Michael Fennell.

The award is presented at the Discovery Ball, the premier gala in Rochester.  Tim and Terri Wilmot, longtime supporters of the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, are chairs for this year’s event, which will be attended by more than 1,200 people.

“We’re proud to see our local researchers’ findings have such a dramatic impact on cancer,” said Tim Wilmot. “We expect to see more advances like this come from Wilmot scientists as this center grows.”

Infectious disease experts Reichman, Rose and Bonnez discovered the key component of the new vaccine, which prevents infection with the HPV virus, known to cause most cervical cancers. The virologists were trying to create a blood test to detect HPV infection, which is spread through sexual contact. 

Years of study resulted in their discovery of virus-like particles, which look like the HPV virus and cause the body’s immune system to fight infection. The technology was sold to pharmaceutical companies that developed the vaccine, which has shown 100 percent effectiveness in clinical trials in Rochester a decade ago.

Tickets to the Discovery Ball are $250 per person and available by calling (585) 242-8988.

The Wilmot Cancer Center is the Finger Lakes region’s leader for cancer care and research. The center is raising $42.5 million to expand clinical and research programs and construct a new facility.  The improvements lay the foundation for creation of one of the top cancer centers in the nation.

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Leslie White
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