The Latest Developments in Cervical Cancer Research
As we continue with our support for Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, we want to take this opportunity. To share with you some of the latest and most promising developments that are taking place in the battle against cervical cancer, and how they might help those living with cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer – the story so far.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the world. In 2018, an estimated 570,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer worldwide, and approximately 311,000 women died from the disease.
In Malaysia, Cervical cancer is the third most common cancer in women. Buy, its screening rate is appallingly low, only some 12.9% of all women in Malaysia have a pap smear once in their life, and that’s usually after giving birth.
The critical age groups most affected by Cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer rarely develops in women younger than 20 and is most frequently diagnosed in women between the ages of 35 and 44. The average age for diagnosis is 50, and many older women do not realise that the risk of developing cervical cancer is still present as they age.
In-fact more than 20% of cervical cancer cases are found in women over 65. However, it rarely occurs in women who have been tested and screened regularly for cervical cancer before the age of 65
New Developments in Cervical cancer research.
Doctors and researchers worldwide are working hard to learn more about cervical cancer, ways to prevent it, how to best treat it, and how to provide the very best care to women diagnosed with this disease. New research and treatments include;
Improved detection and screening methods.
The primary aim of cervical cancer screening is to find precancer or cancer early when it is more treatable and curable. Regular screening can prevent cervical cancers and save lives.
So with cervical cancer being highly treatable when detected early, researchers are developing much better ways to detect both precancer and cervical cancer, including the introduction of fluorescent spectroscopy, which uses fluorescent light to detect changes in precancerous cervix cells.
HPV Prevention and Vaccines
Often cervical cancer can be prevented with regular screenings to find any precancers and treat them along with the use of the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccine – which helps prevent infection from the high-risk HPV strains associated with cervical cancer.
Available vaccines are intended to produce immunity to HPV types that cause about 90% of cervical cancer, and researchers are currently looking at the impact the HPV vaccine may have on boys as a way to help reduce the risk of HPV transmission.
Immunotherapy is also known as biologic therapy and is designed to boost the body’s natural defences to fight cancer. In cancer, the immune system cannot control the fast growth of tumour cells.
So to help overcome this issue, new drugs called immune checkpoint inhibitors are being developed. These drugs are designed to “reset” the immune system, using materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore the immune system function.
For those women who already have cervical cancer, a therapeutic vaccine is currently under development, which will help “train” the immune system to recognise cervical cancer cells and then destroy them.
Having children is for many women, one of the most important life goals. Cancer treatments can temporarily or permanently affect fertility, and because fertility preservation is a significant factor in cancer survivors’ overall quality of life. Researchers continue to focus on improving surgical techniques and looking into ways in which women with cervical cancer can be treated successfully without losing their ability to have children.
Targeted therapy is a procedure that targets cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. New drugs known as ‘angiogenesis inhibitors’ that block the action of a protein called ‘vascular endothelial growth factor‘ (VEGF) have shown to help women live longer if they have cervical cancer that has spread to other parts of their body.
VEGF promotes angiogenesis, which is the formation of new blood vessels and because a tumour needs the nutrients delivered by blood vessels to grow and spread, the goal of angiogenesis inhibitors is to “starve” the tumour of the necessary nutrients.
These new targeted drugs work differently from standard chemotherapy drugs and often have side effects distinct from those associated with traditional chemotherapy drugs.
Various clinical trials are exploring the use of different combinations of immunotherapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy against cervical cancer.
Palliative care/supportive care.
Further clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current cervical cancer treatments to improve patients’ comfort and quality of life.
What are clinical trials?
Clinical trials are used for all types and stages of cervical cancer research, and often include options for patients’ to take part.
Typically they focus on new treatments to learn if they are safe, effective, and possibly better than the existing treatments. These studies also evaluate new drugs, different combinations of treatments, new approaches to radiation therapy or surgery, and new treatment methods.
People who participate in clinical trials can often be some of the first to get a treatment before it is available to the public. However, it should be remembered that there can be some risks with a clinical trial, including possible side effects and the chance that the new treatment may not work.
Before deciding to join any clinical trials, you should always talk with your doctor about the best diagnostic and treatment options open to you.
About Cancer Pro
Cancer Pro is the voice of the world’s cancer physicians and oncology professionals in Malaysia and is the trusted compassionate resource for people with cancer, their families and caregivers. For more information regarding the latest research developments in cervical cancer, please visit www. cancer-pro.com.