Press Release: Funding by the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation Leads to Findings That Genetic Differences Protect Against Cervical Cancer

Chicago, March 13, 2009—Researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, led by Dr. Mark H. Einstein and Dr Robert D. Burk, with funding from the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, have found that women with certain gene variations appear to be protected against cervical cancer.

In a study published in the February edition of Clinical Cancer Research, evidence was presented that suggests that some women are better able than others to suppress the consequences from infection with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), the cause of almost all cervical cancer. This improved protection can most likely be traced to variations in the genes that influence the body’s immune response.

Two groups of women were studied: women with a high-grade cervical intraepthelial neoplasm (CIN), a pre-malignancy caused by an infection with cancer-causing HPV types; and women who tested positive for HPV but had not developed high-grade CIN.

Looking at a gene called TAP, known to be central to the immune system’s ability to recognize viruses and eliminate them, Dr. Einstein and his colleagues found that in the 480 women studied, the key difference between the two groups was the location at two points of their TAP genes. This knowledge offers researchers with yet another opportunity to develop strategies to protect against cervical cancer.

“These findings take us one step closer to being able to develop a genetic test that allows us to determine which patients with an on-going HPV infection go on to develop cancer and which women’s immune system can effectively fight the virus,” said Dr. Einstein.

Dr. Einstein and his colleagues also see these results as an opportunity to advance efforts to tailor care to the individual, referred to as personalized medicine.

Cervical cancer is completely preventable, yet almost 4,000 women in the United States die from this cancer each year.

The Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF) is the foundation of the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists (SGO). GCF’s mission, in concert with SGO, is to support research, education and public awareness of gynecologic cancer prevention, early diagnosis and optimal treatment.

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