New research sheds light on why cervical precancers disappear in some women and not in others. Scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center report in the July 1 issue of Clinical Cancer Research that the reason many of these lesions persist is an unlikely mix of human papilloma virus (HPV) strain and a womans individual immune system.
For decades, scientists have known that HPV causes nearly all cases of cancer in the neck of the womb. Most sexually active women – some reports say up to 80 percent – are exposed to HPV and more than half of these women are infected with strains of the virus that could likely turn a precancerous lesion to cancer. But only a small percentage of precancers progress to full-blown cancer, a process that takes years.
To find out why, gynecologic oncologist Cornelia Trimble, M.D., closely monitored 100 women with high-grade, precancerous cervical lesions before standard surgery to remove the abnormal tissue. Some of the lesions – about 28 percent -- regressed by themselves before surgery within a time period considered within the bounds of care standards. But among patients whose pre-cancers lingered, Trimble discovered that women were three times less likely to resolve their lesions if they carried a certain immune system gene and did not have HPV16, the most common strain of the virus.
Vanessa Wasta | EurekAlert!
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