By Jonesa Rodriguez - June 24, 2022
Every year, Moffitt Cancer Center’s faculty members are recognized for their outstanding achievements during the annual Faculty Appreciation and Recognition Ceremony. Several awards are given to those who continue to break barriers at Moffitt, allowing the cancer center to provide the latest advancements to its patients.
One of the top awards, the W. Jackson Pledger Researcher of the Year, is given to a research faculty member who has made an impactful contribution not only to the science and care at Moffitt but also to the science and care of patients around the globe. This year’s recipient is Dr. Anna Giuliano.
Giuliano joined Moffitt in 2004 to lead a new research program known as Risk Assessment, Detection and Intervention, which was later renamed the Cancer Epidemiology Program. Continuing her journey at the cancer center, she envisioned a transdisciplinary center of excellence focused on infection and cancer research; the Center for Immunization & Infection Research in Cancer (CIIRC) was established in 2012. As the founding director, Giuliano oversees the mission and activities of the center.
Her personal research is focused on the prevention of cancer caused by human papillomavirus, with studies to determine the natural history of HPV infections in men and women at every anatomic site where the virus causes cancer and translating that information to design clinical trials for infection prevention and lesions treatment, and ultimately programs designed to reach populations to reduce the incidence of HPV-caused cancers.
This year, she was recognized for her efforts in leading definitive clinical trials to evaluate the HPV vaccine for the prevention of oropharyngeal cancer, spearheading a series of SARS-CoV-2 studies, including several to evaluate cancer patients’ response to vaccination to prevent COVID-19, and her leadership in the effort to eliminate HPV-related cancers. Giuliano also helped U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor in authoring the PREVENT HPV Cancers ACT of 2021, which recently passed the House of Representatives and is under consideration in the Senate, underscoring her impact on national policies.
Giuliano says she was completely surprised to have won such a prestigious award. Eliminating cancers caused by HPV is her passion and the reason she became a researcher.
“From the start of my career, my goal has been to prevent cancers caused by HPV. When I joined Moffitt, the goal shifted from just preventing cervical cancer to preventing the six cancers caused by HPV in men and women,” said Giuliano. “Today, the goal is even more ambitious – it is the elimination of cancers caused by HPV.”
Over the years, she has published more than 425 peer-review publications, with 40 of those happening within the past year. Her research has spanned multiple countries including the U.S., countries in Latin America and Africa, and has led to the licensure of HPV vaccines for males and females, and multiple indications including prevention of cervical, vulvar, vaginal, anal cancers, genital warts, and more recently, the prevention of oropharyngeal cancer. Giuliano says seeing her research lead to meaningful clinical practice changes has given her the greatest source of satisfaction.
“Some of my most memorable moments were when I first saw the efficacy data from the clinical trial of Gardasil in women in 2005, then licensure of the vaccine in 2006,” she said. “And when I saw the vaccine efficacy results from the male trial of Gardasil in 2008, and later in 2009 being part of the team to present the data in person to the FDA for one indication and again in 2010 for the second indication in men.”
For those wanting to follow a similar path, Giuliano’s advice is to make sure you are passionate about your research.
“It takes work, 24/7 commitment, persistence, heart, body and soul to conduct research that ultimately has an impact,” said Giuliano. “Also, make sure to weed through the noise and focus on research questions that are most relevant to reducing the cancer burden.”