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Groundbreaking discovery of the cellular origin of cervical cancer
Date:6/12/2012

A team of scientists from A*STAR's Institute of Medical Biology (IMB) and Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) together with clinicians from Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have identified a unique set of cells in the cervix that are the cause of human papillomaviruses (HPV) related cervical cancers. Significantly, the team also showed that these cells do not regenerate when excised. These findings have immense clinical implications in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of cervical cancer. The study was published in the prestigious journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), this week.

Cervical cancer is the 7th most common female cancer in Singapore and about 200 cases are diagnosed every year. Infection with HPV is the most common cause or risk factor for cervical cancer. HPV infection causes pre-invasive cancer, termed CIN (Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia), which are pre-cancerous lesions that can progress and potentially become invasive cancer if left untreated.k

Dr Christopher P. Crum, Director of Women's and Perinatal Pathology in the Department of pathology at BWH, said, "It has been a decades-old mystery why cervical cancers caused by HPV arise only from a discrete region of the cervix, known as the 'squamocolumnar junction', despite the presence of the virus throughout the genital tract. The discovery of these cells finally resolves this mystery and will have wide-ranging impact from developing more meaningful animal models of early cervical carcinogenesis to clinical implications."

The team discovered that this discrete set of cells, located at the squamocolumnar junction of the cervix, uniquely express biomarkers that are seen in all forms of invasive c%rvical cancers linked to HPV. This means that the signature markers of this population of cells can provide a way of distinguishing potentially dangerous precancerous lesions from those with a benign prognosis.

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Contact: Ong Siok Ming
ong_siok_ming@a-star.edu.sg
65-682-66254
Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore
Source:Eurekalert

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