HIV drug may prevent cervical cancer

A new study suggests that the HIV drug lopinavir kills off the human papilloma virus (HPV) that leads to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is caused by infection with HPV. Approximately 300,000 women die from cervical cancer every year. Around 40,000 British women are found to have abnormalities in the cervix each year, with approximately 1,000 dying as a result of the disease per year. In the US, about 11,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year, with approximately 3,870 women dying as a result of the disease each year. In Canada, around 1,450 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, with 380 women dying as a result of the disease each year.

The study was conducted by researchers Ian and Lynne Hampson, from the University of Manchester, England, with the assistance of Dr. Innocent Orara Maranga of the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. The researchers found that when women were treated with lopinavir, the drug eliminated pre-cancerous cells (HPV) in 90 percent of the participants, with no side effects. They examined 40 women with low-grade and high-grade stage pre-cancerous disease of the cervix. While lopinavir is generally used orally to treat HIV, in the trial it was applied directly to the cervix. The participants were treated with one capsule of the drug twice a day for two weeks. After a month, cervical smears showed marked improvement and after three months, the response was definitive. Of the 23 women who were diagnosed with high-grade disease, 19 returned to a normal healthy cervix after treatment.

Dr. Ian Hampson said that the results of the trial have exceeded their expectations. The researchers hope that this treatment has the potential to “revolutionise the management of this disease more particularly in developing nations such as Kenya” where cervical cancer is more than 5 times more prevalent than in the United Kingdom. In many developing countries, HPV-related cervical cancer is one of the most common women’s cancers, causing approximately 290,000 deaths per year. While there are vaccinations to protect against HPV, they do not help women who are already infected with the virus. The researchers say that further work is necessary, but they are hopeful that this might be a potential treatment to stop early stage cervical cancer caused by HPV.

Read more about HPV here.

Read more about cervical cancer here. 

Read more about the study here.


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