Women with certain gene variations appear to be protected against cervical cancer, according to a study led by scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and reported in Clinical Cancer Research. Knowing whether or not women have these genetic variants could help physicians to better tailor treatment strategies.
Virtually all cases of cervical cancer are caused by persistent infections from several of the human papillomaviruses (HPV) — a family of viruses that also cause common skin warts and genital warts. HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in young adults, yet only a small subset of these infections lead to cervical cancer.
“Some people are better able than others to mount an immune response that suppresses their HPV infection,” says Mark H. Einstein, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at Einstein. “We suspected that this advantage was probably due to variations in genes that play key roles in the body’s immune response.”
To find out, the researchers recruited 480 women and divided them into two groups: those with high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), a premalignant condition caused by HPV that can lead to cervical cancer; and a control group of women who had tested positive for HPV but had not developed high-grade CIN.
The researchers took cells from the women and looked for genetic differences between the two groups. They focused on a gene called TAP, known to be crucial to the immune system’s ability to recognize viruses and eliminate them from the body.
Dr. Einstein and his colleagues found that study participants had key differences at two locations in their TAP genes. Those women who possessed one or the other of these two gene variants were less than half as likely as other women to have developed high-grade CIN. Even women infected with the HPV types most likely to lead to cervical cancer were afforded protection by these variants. The finding suggests that knowledge of these genetic variants, known as polymorphisms, can provide important information regarding protection against cervical cancer.
“We’re hopeful that our findings will lead to a genetic test that will help us predict which patients with persistent HPV infection are most likely to develop high-grade CIN and, ultimately, cervical cancer,” says Dr. Einstein. “That knowledge should help us in mapping out effective treatment plans that are tailored to the individual patient. This trend of personalized medicine is becoming more common as new technologies offer hope of better tests.”
The paper, “Genetic Variants in TAP are Associated with High-Grade Cervical Neoplasia,” is published in the February edition of Clinical Cancer Research. Other Einstein researchers include Robert Burk, M.D., Gary Goldberg, M.D., Nicolas Schlecht, Ph.D., Suzanne Leanza, Ph.D., and Lydia G. Chiu, M.P.H. Contributing from Einstein and Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New Hyde Park, NY, was Bettie M. Steinberg, Ph.D.
Dr. Einstein’s research was funded by the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation.
About Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University
Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University is one of the nation’s premier centers for research, medical education and clinical investigation. It is the home to some 2,000 faculty members, 750 M.D. students, 350 Ph.D. students (including 125 in combined M.D./Ph.D. programs) and 380 postdoctoral investigators. Last year, Einstein received more than $130 million in support from the NIH. This includes the funding of major research centers at Einstein in diabetes, cancer, liver disease, and AIDS. Other areas where the College of Medicine is concentrating its efforts include developmental brain research, neuroscience, cardiac disease, and initiatives to reduce and eliminate ethnic and racial health disparities. Through its extensive affiliation network involving five hospital centers in the Bronx, Manhattan and Long Island – which includes Montefiore Medical Center, The University Hospital and Academic Medical Center for Einstein – the College runs one of the largest post-graduate medical training program in the United States, offering approximately 150 residency programs to more than 2,500 physicians in training.
Source: Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University