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Hibma Laboratory: Viral Pathogenesis

Around 1550 women are diagnosed with high-grade pre-malignant cervical cancer in New Zealand, and globally around half a million women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. In countries without organized screening programmes, cervical cancer is a leading cause of cancer mortality in women.

Cervical cancer is caused by infection with high-risk, cancer-causing types of human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is also associated with around 30% of head and neck cancers, and may contribute to cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. The Hibma Laboratory's research focus is to better understand the biology of human papillomavirus, particularly the interplay between the virus and the host immune system.

This knowledge will underpin the development of:

  • biomarkers that will distinguish progressive pre-malignant disease from disease that will resolve naturally.
  • immunotherapeutics that will be used to treat progressive HPV pre-malignancy.

The team are also interested in the contribution of HPV to other cancers, including cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma and head and neck cancers, and to disease at other non-classical sites of infection.

National and international collaborations, and the funding that supports this research are essential for its continuity. The Hibma Laboratory's funding sources include:

Cancer Society of New Zealand

Lottery Health

Maurice and Phyllis Paykel Trust

Otago Medical Research Foundation

University of Otago Bequest Funds

Key people:

Associate Professor Merilyn Hibma (Principal Investigator)

Kevin Ly (Assistant Research Fellow)

Megha Budhwani (PhD student)

Dr Mayumi Saito (Technician)