New cervical cancer analysis offers clues on role of HPV

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Zee Media Bureau

Efforts to analyze the genome of cervical cancer has finally yielded some results and discoveries.

Researchers have identified 13 genetic mutations that can now be considered significant for cervical cancer. Two of these mutations had never before been linked to cancer. And eight had been linked to other cancers, but cervical,including one uncovered mutation to the gene ERBB2 , which has been previously connected to breast cancer.

At present, 10-15 percent of all cancer-related deaths in women globally are a result of cervical cancer. Those rates are particularly high in developing countries where women are likely to have minimal access to early screening efforts, like pap smears, and preventive medicine, like the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.



Researchers took samples from 115 cervical cancer patients from Norway and Mexico and then conducted exome sequencing on all of them, which is a type of analysis of the genetic code in the protein-coding regions of the genome, known as the exome. On some samples, the researchers performed an entire genomic sequencing and on some, they focused on transcriptome sequencing, which looks at gene expression.

In terms of transcriptome sequencing, the researchers focused on HPV, which is present in all cervical cancers. They looked at the "integration sites" where HPV inserts genetic code into the human genome, finding that HPV inserted itself where expression was "turned up" highest. The researchers concluded from this finding that the virus may have an amplification function, promoting the mutated genes that lead to cancer.

"Our findings further elucidate the key role HPV is playing in the development of cervical cancer, which in turn emphasizes the importance of combating the disease by vaccinating against HPV," Matthew Meyerson, co-senior author and a professor of pathology and medical oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, said in a statement.