NEWS RELEASE: 17 January 2019

An innovation by Australia’s VCS Foundation (VCSF) and the University of Malaya (UM) is set to make a life-changing difference to Malaysian women by helping prevent cervical cancer – the third most common cancer among women in Malaysia claiming 6 lives every day.

On Monday, 14th January, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was exchanged between VCS Foundation and UM that will see a successful pilot program rolled out across Malaysia. The program, Removing Obstacles to Cervical Screening, or Program R.O.S.E., integrates self-sampling, HPV testing and VCS Foundation’s digital platform, canSCREEN®, to enhance Malaysian women’s personal journey of maintaining good cervical health.

To date, no country has implemented a programme like R.O.S.E incorporating these three components through an integrated system that links the HPV self-test result to a woman’s mobile phone and a secure population health management register for comprehensive follow through of the screening to treatment pathway, making Malaysia the first in the world and a model for others to follow.

Currently, many Malaysian women are reluctant to be screened due to the fear, embarrassment and discomfort associated with Pap tests. This low rate of uptake explains why so many Malaysian women are suffering and dying from cervical cancer. An unacceptable situation when considering cervical cancer is preventable and when early changes are detected, effective treatment is available.

According to Associate Professor Marion Saville, Executive Director of VCS Foundation, Program R.O.S.E will encourage more women to willingly participate in screening in a timely manner by protecting their safety, privacy and dignity through self-sampling, a process where women use a swab to collect their own sample from the vagina for HPV testing.

“The HPV test is evidence-based and highly accurate, providing greater reassurance to women and their families. Access to this improved diagnostic accuracy will require significantly less frequent testing over a Malaysian woman’s lifetime while still affording high levels of protection against cervical cancer.”

Many Australian women are also able to access the HPV self-test by visiting their GP. In 2017, Australia was the first country to include self-collection for cervical cancer prevention in the new National Cervical Screening Program when the Pap test was replaced by HPV based screening.

“We know that many women in Australia also experience a range of barriers to having a Pap test as recommended and are therefore at higher risk of the disease,” says Associate Professor Saville. “Evidence suggests that Australian and Malaysian women would generally find this new approach to screening much more acceptable.

“However, it is the e-health component that makes R.O.S.E unique and powerful. It utilises mobile technology and VCS Foundation’s canSCREEN®, a population health management platform that enables healthcare professionals to track the progress of every woman screened through their lifetime, regardless of where she was screened.

“This provides a welcome safety net to ensure that women in whom HPV is detected are followed up and managed appropriately. It also allows optimisation of health resources by preventing duplication of services while establishing a powerful resource to monitor Malaysia’s progress towards eliminating cervical cancer.

Project R.O.S.E was co-led by Associate Professor Saville and Prof Woo Yin Ling of the University of Malaya.

“VCS Foundation is extremely proud to have been an integral part of R.O.S.E. It is a milestone in cervical cancer prevention for Malaysian women and we look forward to continued involvement,” said Associate Professor Saville. in Project R.O.S.E.”

The national rollout means more women in Malaysia will have access to this method of cervical cancer screening, a life-saving decision which will enable the prevention of cancer through the detection and treatment of pre-cancerous abnormalities.

The MoU was exchanged between Associate Professor Marion Saville, Executive Director of VCS Foundation and Professor Dato’ Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Dean of the Medical Faculty of UM in the presence of the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia Dato’ Seri Dr Wan Azizah. Both organisations will establish a not-for-profit joint venture to combine their expertise to support the implementation of R.O.S.E. as a cervical screening programme in Malaysia.

The game changing potential of R.O.S.E. has been recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Union for International Cancer Control, International Papillomavirus Society, National Cancer Institute of the US, and International Federation of Gynaecology & Obstetrics.

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About VCS Foundation

VCS Foundation is Australia’s largest not for profit organisation in cervical cancer prevention, drawing on over 50 years of expertise. VCS Foundation includes laboratory, educational, population and digital health services.

The unique combination of these distinct but integrated services positions VCS Foundation as a world leader in cervical cancer control and program implementation.

Issued by VCS Foundation.  For enquiries please contact: Jenny Littlewood PR to VCS Foundation.

T: 0403 359 864. E: jenny.littlewood@communicado.com.au