Assessment of potential tests for anal cancer screening

Lead researcher

Prof Suzanne M. Garland

Prof Suzanne M. Garland


The University of Melbourne

Tumour type:


Years funded


Project description

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is found in nearly 100% of cervical, and 90% of anal cancers. Anal cancer is an increasingly common cancer in Australia and comparable industrialised nations. Particular groups of people are most at risk, including gay and bisexual men, people living with HIV, and women with previous HPV-related cervical disease.

In contrast to cervical disease, there are no standardised recommendations for preventative screening or treatment of pre-cancerous high-grade lesions, therefore we are very pleased to be funded to continue this research. 

What are you trying to achieve?

This study aims to find more accurate and sensitive tests for better management of patients infected with HRHPV who are more likely to develop cancers caused by HPV, particularly in marginalised populations such as gay and bisexual men, and people living with HIV. 

What is your personal motivation?

My personal motivation is to undertake cancer research, particularly into cancers caused by HPV. There are currently 3 licensed, safe and effective prophylactic HPV vaccines to prevent these cancers. I have worked on the Phase III clinical trials of the HPV vaccines and know their efficacy in people that are uninfected prior to vaccination. The vaccines are still relatively recent and have mostly been given to young people, so there are many unvaccinated people still living at risk of developing HPV-related cancers.

At the moment the only way to prevent someone with a pre-cancerous HPV lesion from developing cancer is to treat the lesion, but we know that many lesions heal on their own. We need reliable screening tests for those who are already infected with HPV that can tell us who is most likely to develop cancer, so that we can treat these patients appropriately, and who should not undergo unnecessary treatment. 

Project timeline

2017  2018 

 Categorisation of participants as being with and without persistent pre-cancerous disease   

Laboratory evaluation of potential screening tests 

Data analysis and publication of results 


Categorisation of participants as being with and without persistent pre-cancerous disease 

Laboratory evaluation of potential screening tests

Data analysis and publication of results

"We are very pleased to be funded to continue this research, particularly for anal cancer which has no appropriate screening as cervical cancer does."


Prof Sepehr Tabrizi, A/Prof Richard Hillman, Dr Alyssa Cornall, Dr Fengyi Jin, Dr Jennifer Roberts, Dr Mary Poynten, Dr Monica Molano, Dr Dorothy Machalek, Prof Andew Grulich, A/Prof David Templeton, Prof Richard Turner, Dr Steve Simpson, Jr and Dr Carmella Law