• To investigate the regions of DNA highlighted by our genetic studies. We are doing this in order to identify the genetic variant or variants responsible for the increased incidence of vulvar cancer in these communities and how they work.
  • To determine the cause of the very high incidence of vulvar cancer in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory (NT)
  • To improve diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive tools, with the aim of lessening the burden of this distressing disease in remote communities.

Menzies is researching the cause of the epidemic of vulvar cancer in young Indigenous women living in remote NT communities.

The Menzies research team works closely with health care providers, the NT Department of Health, and collaborators around Australia to identify the causes of this serious disease, improve preventive and treatment strategies and increase awareness of the problem.

Previous stages have confirmed the existence of the cancer cluster, and examined the role of human pappilomavirus (HPV) in explaining the very high incidence of this disease. We are now investigating the role of genetic risk factors in susceptibility to vulvar cancer

Implications for policy and practice:

The results of this research continue to provide evidence that helps to inform strategies for preventing and treating vulvar cancer in Indigenous women in remote communities. This includes promoting awareness among health care professionals, informing vaccination strategies, and providing health education materials for women in these communities

Our research has found: 

To date, our research has:

  • Confirmed the existence of a vulvar cancer cluster in this district
  • Established that the high incidence of vulvar cancer is not caused by higher rates of HPV, or by a particularly virulent strain of HPV
  • Found evidence of a genetic risk factor for vulvar cancer, which means that women in these communities might be inheriting an increased susceptibility to vulvar cancer.
Chief Investigator:
Project Manager:
Contact information:
Project dates:

January 2011 – December 2013.

  • National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 
  • University of Adelaide
  • Griffith University
  • Menzies Research Institute Tasmania
  • Northern Territory Department of Health
  • Royal Adelaide Hospital
  • Royal Darwin Hospital
  • Monash University
  • Telethon Institute for Child Health Research
  • University of Melbourne.
  1. Condon, J. R., Rumbold, A. R., Thorn, J. C., O’Brien, M. M., Davy, M. J., & Zardawi, I. (2009). A cluster of vulvar cancer and vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia in young Australian Indigenous women. Cancer Causes & Control, 20(1), 67-74.
  2. Rumbold, A.,Tan, S., Condon, J., Taylor-Thomson, D., Nickels, M., Tabrizi, S., et al. (2012). Investigating a cluster of vulvar cancer in young women: a cross-sectional study of genital human papillomavirus prevalence. BMC Infectious Diseases, 12(1), 243.
  3. Tan, S. E., Garland, S. M., Rumbold, A. R., Zardawi, I., Taylor-Thomson, D., Condon, J. R., & Tabrizi, S. N. (2013). Investigating a cluster of vulvar cancers in young women: distribution of human papillomavirus and HPV-16 variants in vulvar dysplastic or neoplastic biopsies. Sexual health, 10, 18-25.
  4. Tan, S. E., Garland, S. M., Rumbold, A. R., & Tabrizi, S. N. (2010). Human papillomavirus genotyping using archival vulval dysplastic or neoplastic biopsy tissues: comparison between the INNO-LiPA and linear array assays. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 48(4), 1458-1460.
  5. McWhirter, R. E., Mununggirritj, D., Marika, D., Dickinson, J. L., & Condon, J. R. (2012). Ethical genetic research in Indigenous communities: challenges and successful approaches. Trends in Molecular Medicine 18(12), 702-708.