Primary cervical cancer screening with human papillomavirus: end of study results from the ATHENA study using HPV as the first-line screening test

Gynecol Oncol. 2015 Feb;136(2):189-97. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2014.11.076. Epub 2015 Jan 8.


Objectives: ATHENA evaluated the cobas HPV Test as the primary screen for cervical cancer in women ≥25years. This reports the 3-year end-of-study results comparing the performance of HPV primary screening to different screening and triage combinations.

Methods: 42,209 women ≥25years were enrolled and had cytology and hrHPV testing. Women with abnormal cytology (≥atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance) and those HPV positive were referred to colposcopy. Women not reaching the study endpoint of CIN2+ entered the 3-year follow-up phase.

Results: 3-year CIR of CIN3+ in cytology-negative women was 0.8% (95% CI; 0.5-1.1%), 0.3% (95% CI 0.1-0.7%) in HPV-negative women, and 0.3% (95% CI; 0.1-0.6%) in cytology and HPV negative women. The sensitivity for CIN3+ of cytology was 47.8% (95% CI; 41.6-54.1%) compared to 61.7% (95% CI; 56.0-67.5%) for the hybrid strategy (cytology if 25-29years and cotesting with cytology and HPV if ≥30years) and 76.1% (95% CI; 70.3-81.8%) for HPV primary. The specificity for CIN3+ was 97.1% (95% CI; 96.9-97.2%), 94.6% (95% CI; 94.4-94.8%), and 93.5% (95% CI; 93.3-93.8%) for cytology, hybrid strategy, and HPV primary, respectively. Although HPV primary detects significantly more cases of CIN3+ in women ≥25years than either cytology or hybrid strategy, it requires significantly more colposcopies. However, the number of colposcopies required to detect a single CIN3+ is the same as for the hybrid strategy.

Conclusions: HPV primary screening in women ≥25years is as effective as a hybrid screening strategy that uses cytology if 25-29years and cotesting if ≥30years. However, HPV primary screening requires less screening tests.

Keywords: Cervical cancer screening; Cervical cytology; HPV.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Papillomavirus Infections / virology
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / diagnosis
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / virology*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology*
  • Vaginal Smears