Revelation of the connection between the human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical neoplasia and invasive cervical cancer is prompting new investigations to expand that understanding and promote vaccines, gene therapy, and other interventions. At the Second International Conference on Cervical Cancer (Houston, TX, April 11-14, 2002), laboratory and clinical researchers reported advances in new studies meant to increase understanding of the natural history of HPV and cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, to evaluate new cervical cancer screening techniques, and to promote new therapies. Using K14-HPV type 16 transgenic mice, researchers are investigating the effects of estrogen on cervical cancer carcinogenesis, and results are lending support to epidemiological theories showing a difference in HPV infection rates and the development of cervical lesions in women using oral contraceptives. Other work involves investigating genes that are up-regulated by HPV infection and the role of the p53 homologue, p63, in cervical neoplasia evolution. Telomerase also is under investigation as a biomarker in high-risk populations. Gene therapy that replaced p53 in cervical cancer cell lines in vitro and a nude mouse model inhibited cell and tumor growth, confirming previous findings in squamous epithelial carcinomas of the head and neck. Furthermore, research in intracellular targeting of antigens to subcellular locations shows promise for treating cervical cancer preclinically. Identification of molecular changes in cervical cancer and knowledge about the importance of HPV infection in cervical cancer can lead to new therapies to treat existing cervical cancer and, in the long term, prevent the disease.
Copyright 2003 American Cancer Society.