19 November 2020

Cancer Researcher Honoured with KFJ prize: Played A Key Role for the HPV Vaccine

HPV Vaccine

This year, Professor Susanne Krüger Kjær receives the annual clinical KFJ prize for her unique research into Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer and for bringing focus to gynaecological cancer. Her research results have helped further the development of the HPV vaccine, and she is not yet done.

Susanne Krüger Kjær
(Susanne Krüger Kjær, photo: Anton Willemann)

Very few researchers are able to claim that they have been at the forefront of their scientific field all the way from the basic scientific findings in the laboratory, and until they ultimately benefit the patients. Nevertheless, that is what Professor Susanne Krüger Kjær can rightfully claim.

She has been a cancer researcher for more than 30 years and has played a key role in the development of the HPV vaccine. For her great research efforts at the University of Copenhagen, the Danish Cancer Society and Rigshospitalet, she now receives the clinical KFJ Prize from the Kirsten and Freddy Johansen Foundation.

‘It is a huge recognition for me personally, for my research group and for our research field. We have a great ambition that what we discover in our research must be made available as soon as possible so it can benefit the patients, and therefore I am particularly pleased that it is a clinical award’, she says.

The Interest Was Aroused at the Danish Cancer Society

Like in so many other career paths, chance played a certain role when Susanne Krüger Kjær ended up becoming a cancer researcher. As a young medical student, she needed a temporary job where she could see patients, but not that many positions were available. Therefore, she ended up working with medical coding in the Danish Cancer Society.

‘It was at the Danish Cancer Society – where, incidentally, I still have my research department – that my interest in the field was aroused. There were some really talented researchers who were a great inspiration to me, including the Head of the Cancer Registry Ole Møller Jensen’, says Susanne Krüger Kjær.

Patients Made the Work Meaningful

She then completed her education and left the research world for quite some time where she had patients in the clinic.

‘I was extremely happy to deal with patients. It has given the work a different angle and a different meaning. But when an opportunity came up to take part in a large research project on cervical cancer, I had to say yes; it was simply too exciting’, she says.

At that time, it had not been long since researchers had found the first miniscule association between HPV and cell changes.

One of the World’s Most Cited Cervical Cancer Researchers

Over the course of the many years following, Susanne Krüger Kjær worked with other international researchers to document the connection between HPV and cancer. Along the way, she has become one of the world's most cited researchers in the field of cervical cancer. The many years of work culminated in the development of an HPV vaccine, which was introduced in Denmark in 2008.

‘30 years of cancer research – from having very little knowledge and to the possible prevention of several cancers with a vaccine – may sound like a long time, but in medical history it is actually not that long. We have had a unique international collaboration on this, and I am very proud to have participated in a course of events which means that, today, fewer people get cancer and die from it’, she says.

Along the way, Susanne Krüger Kjær has also dealt with other cancers. Her involvement in ovarian cancer has meant that she has become a Visiting Professor at the Johns Hopkins University as well as a Visiting Scientist at the National Institutes of Health, both in the United States.

Today, she is also involved in vulvar cancer in women, where, amongst others, she uses the unique Danish data options and tissue banks to study the disease in order to try to improve survival and reduce late complications of the treatment. This work happens in collaboration between hospitals all over Denmark, where women have undergone surgery for vulvar cancer for the past many years.

The KFJ Prize will be presented to Susanne Krüger Kjær on 20 November.



Susanne Krüger Kjær
+45 35 25 76 63

Communications Consultant Mathias Traczyk
+45 93 56 58 35