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HPV vaccine could prevent breast cancer: Australian research
Date:9/3/2009

Vaccinating women against the human papillomavirus (HPV) may prevent some forms of breast cancer and save tens of thousands of lives each year, new Australian research suggests.

Using genetic probes, researchers at the University of New South Wales tested cancerous breast cells and found several strains of HPVs known to have a high risk of initiating cancer of the cervix. HPV has a causal role in 90-95 per cent of cervical cancers.

The research was conducted by a team from the UNSW School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, led by Visiting Professor James Lawson, and is published in the British Journal of Cancer.

The team confirmed the presence of high-risk HPV in the nuclei of breast cancer epithelial cells in five (39 per cent) of 13 ductal carcinoma in situ and three (21 per cent) of 14 invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) breast cancer specimens. Non-invasive or in situ cancers are those confined to the milk-making glands and do not spread to other parts of the breast or body. Invasive cancers such as IDC are more serious and account for 70-80 percent of all breast cancers.

"The finding that high risk HPV is present in a significant number of breast cancers indicates they may have a causal role in many breast cancers," says UNSW researcher, Dr Noel Whitaker, a co-author of the new report. "Confirming a cancer-causing role for HPV in some breast cancers establishes the possibility of preventing some breast cancers by vaccination against HPV," he says.

The idea that HPV has an involvement in breast cancer is controversial. Scientific reports from 15 countries around the world have identified the presence of high-risk types of HPV in breast tissue and breast cancer specimens.

But those studies have also showed widely varying results, with the prevalence of HPV-positive breast cancer in ranging from as low as four per cent to as high as 86 per cent, and have been clouded by difficulties in detectin
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Contact: Dr Noel Whitaker
n.whitaker@unsw.edu.au
61-404-236-953
University of New South Wales
Source:Eurekalert

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