Author: Maria Cohut
New research from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., investigates how the human papillomavirus promotes cancer. The findings might point to a potential new and improved strategy for targeted treatment.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) refers to a group of viruses transmitted through sexual contact. Some types of HPV cause various kinds of cancer, including mouth, anus, and cervical cancer.
According to data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1 in 4 people in the United States are infected with HPV.
Although treatments for HPV-related conditions do exist, they either target non-cancerous outcomes (such as genital warts) or they focus on the prevention of cancer through screening of abnormal cell activity.
Treatments for cancers caused by HPV include surgical interventions and chemotherapy, but at present, none of the options specifically address the viral source.
Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., have now identified the mechanism that promotes the survival of cancerous cells due to HPV. The study, which was led by Dr. Xuefeng Liu, describes a molecular apparatus that renders cancer cells “immortal.” Understanding how this apparatus works may lead to better targeted treatments in the future, the researcher suggests.
“There is no targeted treatment now for these cancers since German virologist Harald zur Hausen, Ph.D., discovered in 1983 that HPV can cause cervical cancer,” says Dr. Liu.
“Recently,” he adds, “the numbers of HPV-linked head and neck cancers have increased in the U.S. Now we have a chance to develop and test a very specific, potentially less toxic way to stop these cancers.”
The researchers’ findings are published in the journal Oncotarget.