In the United States, the rates of cervical cancer diagnosis are low, but doctors strongly recommend the HPV vaccine. In Singapore, however, the rates are higher, as cervical cancer is the seventh most common type of cancer in women. Fortunately, scientists made a groundbreaking discovery, finding the cellular origin of cervical cancer and literally ending a decades’ long mystery.
This week, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published one of the most important findings in the cervical cancer research. A team of scientists featuring experts with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Genome Institute of Singapore and Institute of Medical Biology have managed to answer a medical mystery that has made cervical cancer challenging for decades.
The researchers found the cellular origin of cervical cancer and can now explain why cervical cancers generated by HPV originate in the squamocolumnar junction”. Dr. Christopher P. Crum is Director of Women’s and Perinatal Pathology with Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He explained that their findings resolves “a decades-old mystery” and are bound to “have wide-ranging impact from developing more meaningful animal models of early cervical carcinogenesis to clinical implications”.
The findings also come to confirm a previous research that showed a certain type of cancers is generated only by a few cells, unique from those around them. Dr Wa Xian with the Institute of Medical Biology explained that they have found such a particular set of cells in the squamocolumnar junction of the cervix in all invasive HPV cervical cancers.
Basically, the cells the researchers found don’t regenerate when taken out of the cervix. However if they are impacted by HPV, the cells react and start generating the cervical cancer.
“This finding helps to explain the low rate of new HPV infections in the cervix after excisional therapy” said dr. Wa Xian. It “also raises the distinct possibility that preemptive removal of these cells in young women could reduce their risk of cervical cancer” he added. Not to mention that “this could be an alternative to current vaccines which only protect against HPV 16 and 18”.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some 12,000 new patients get diagnosed with cervical cancer each year in the United States. To reduce the rate, doctors are pushing for the HPV vaccine.