A new form of diagnostic testing that integrates the human papillomavirus DNA into a patient’s genome may help with detection and prevention of the most high-risk viral strain – HPV type 16 – one of the most aggressive carcinogens.
Viral oncogenes E6 and E7 are considered the cause of cancer growth in HPV16-infected women. A very large sample of 5,570 HPV16-infected patients were tested and researchers discovered a similar number of mutations in E6 among women who tested positive for cancer or precancer and the women with benign infections.
Nearly 40% of women become infected with a high-risk type of HPV at some point in their lives, however most infections are effectively combatted by the body’s immune system. But these infections become undetectable within one to two years and persistent HPV16 causes half of all cervical cancers. The American Cancer Society recommends a combination of Pap test and HPV DNA testing for women 30 and older who may have a strain of undetected HPV 16.
While it’s still not yet clear to researchers why only some HPV infections are controlled by the immune system and some lead to cervical precancer or cancer, an early and reliable means of detection means more lives can be saved.