Cancer Types | Cervical Cancer - NFCR

Cervical Cancer

Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer continues to affect women of all ages worldwide. The disease often presents no symptoms in its early stages, which is why it is often referred to as one of the “silent killers.”

Key Facts

  • Most cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common virus that can be passed from one person to another through sexual activity.
  • With the advent of the HPV vaccine and regular Pap screening tests, most cervical cancers can now be prevented.
  • In 2020, it is estimated that 13,800 women will be diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in the U.S. and 4,290 patients will lose their battle with the disease.
  • Although the number of new cases has been declining over the past decades in the U.S., thanks to Pap screening, cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer for women worldwide.
Source: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2020 and National Cancer Institute’s Fact Sheet: Cervical Cancer
Teal Cervical Cancer Ribbon
expected diagnoses in 2020
deaths expected in 2020
third most common cancer for women

Cervical Cancer Research

In addition to specific projects listed below, genomics research is helping us attack cervical cancer – and all types of cancer. NFCR has distinguished itself from other organizations by emphasizing long-term, transformative research and working to move people toward cancer genomics.

Paul Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D.
Paul Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D.
Dr. Web Cavenee
Web Cavenee, Ph.D.

Dr. Paul Fisher is developing novel therapies that deliver an immune modulator gene he discovered, IL/24, to primary and spreading tumor cells of many cancers, leaving healthy cells untouched. In models of cervical and numerous other types of cancer, IL/24 causes the tumor cells to commit ‘cell suicide’.

I/24 has other powerful anti-cancer properties including activation of the immune system to further fight cancer and sensitizing tumor cells to radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy. One type of IL/24 gene therapy in development by Dr. Fisher’s team also includes a gene that fluoresces (lights up) when IL/24 finds and destroys tumor cells for theranostic approach (detection and treatment-monitoring). Another therapy combines IL/24 with a patient’s own immune T cells (adoptive cell therapy) to supercharge the T cells to fight cancer more effectively. Research is advancing quickly so patients with many types of cancer may benefit from these groundbreaking therapies.

With support from the NFCR AIM-HI Translational Research Initiative, Dr. Fisher and Dr. Web Cavenee are first advancing the lL/24 therapies for the aggressive brain cancer, GBM. IL/24 gene therapy will advance soon to a Phase I clinical trial to provide GBM patients hope for a new effective treatment.

Harold F. Dvorak, M.D.
Harold F. Dvorak, M.D.

Dr. Harold F. Dvorak, who received NFCR funding for over 30 years, discovered the vascular endothelial cell growth factor (VEGF), which plays a central role in angiogenesis, the process by which tumors recruit blood vessels to supply the nutrients they need to grow and survive. Dr. Dvorak’s breakthrough led the research community to develop inhibitors of VEGF. One anti-VEGF targeted cancer therapy, Avastin®, has treated over 1.5 million patients with various types of primary and metastatic cancers. In 2014, this anti-VEGF antibody combined with chemotherapy was approved by the FDA to treat patients with persistent, recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer.

Related Content

How to Protect Yourself from Cervical Cancer

Five Facts Every Woman Should Know About Gynecologic Cancer

As we honor Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, it’s important to be cognizant of the realities of these deadly diseases. All women with reproductive organs are susceptible to developing one of the seven gynecologic cancers, with the exception of women who have received a full hysterectomy and are at a lower risk. Know your body, know the facts, know your risk. #1. Gynecologic cancer is an umbrella term for seven different cancers that occur in women’s reproductive organs. Types of gynecologic cancers include… Cervical cancer. This occurs when the cells inside and outside the cervix mutate. This is the most preventable cancer through annual screenings and routine check-ups. Treatment can look like surgery, chemo, radiation or immunotherapy. Vulvar cancer. This cancer is unique to other gynecologic cancers because it forms on the outside of the genitalia on the labia. Receiving the HPV vaccination decreases the chances of developing vulvar cancer. Depending on the type and stage it’s found in, the cancer has a variety of treatment options. Uterine/endometrial cancer. Caused by cells growing too rapidly on the lining of the uterus, the most common diagnosis of uterine cancer is endometrial carcinoma. There is a high risk of metastasis for uterine and endometrial cancer. This cancer usually results in an operation, but chemotherapy and radiation are implemented in treatment plans too. Vaginal cancer. Vaginal cancer is one of the rarest gynecologic cancers. It typically occurs in the lining of the vagina and most cases require surgery or chemo. Getting an HPV vaccine can reduce the risk of developing vaginal cancer. Ovarian cancer. Three subgroups exist under ovarian cancer: stromal cell (begins in cells that produce female hormones), germ cell (begins in cells that produce eggs in the ovaries) and epithelial cancer (originates in cells that line the ovaries or fallopian tubes). Ovarian cancer is primarily treated with surgery in combination with chemo. Gestational Trophoblastic Disease (GTD). GTD occurs when unusual uterine cells grow to what would normally be a placenta during a healthy pregnancy. This cancer is highly treatable and allows women to carry healthy pregnancies afterwards. Primary Peritoneal Cancer. A relative of epithelial ovarian cancer, this disease presents few warning signs and can result in the removal of the ovaries. Cells in the peritoneum, a thin layer of tissue surrounding the abdomen, mutate into cancer cells. #2. Some gynecologic cancers have very few symptoms. Women with gynecologic cancers don’t always experience the same symptoms, and some experience little to no symptoms at all. Other times, symptoms like bloating, back pain or quickly feeling full while eating are difficult to recognize as being related to cancer because they occur from other ailments. The different subtypes of gynecologic cancer present different symptoms; ovarian cancer is known to have the most such as abnormal bleeding, constipation, pressure and pain, while cervical cancer, a disease known as the “silent killer”, only present irregular discharge or menstrual bleeding. Talk to a doctor right away if you are demonstrating bleeding between periods, after intercourse or after menopause, and if you have any other signs or symptoms of gynecologic cancer for two weeks or longer. Read a  list […]

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: Striking Back at the “Silent Killer”

A recent study published in the International Journal of Cancer highlights a potential improvement to screening techniques for cervical cancer. The method demonstrated considerable success in detecting the human papillomavirus (HPV), as well as predicting a woman’s risk of cervical cancer. Specifically, the screening’s success rate was significantly higher than those in the trial for the two primary competing methodologies: the pap smear and HPV testing. Cervical cancer has often been referred to as “the silent killer.” In 2017, it was estimated that in the U.S. 13,000 women were diagnosed and that 4,000 deaths had occurred due to cervical cancer. It affects women of all ages worldwide and presents no symptoms in the early stages. Most cervical cancers are caused by sexual transmission of HPV. Despite the availability of an HPV vaccine, cervical cancer remains the third most common cancer among women worldwide—albeit only the 14th most common in the U.S., where vaccination rates are high. During the study led by Queen Mary University of London, 15,744 women aged 25-65 participated in a randomized control trial over the course of five years. The researchers sought to discover whether or not epigenetic profiles, or one’s naturally-occurring chemical markers atop DNA, could detect the risk of cancer. The current HPV test and the pap smear check for patterns in DNA mutations. In this study, 8 of the 15,744 women developed cancer over the course of the trial. The new screening method detected 100% of these cancers, while the HPV test and pap smear only detected 50% and 25%, respectively. Though the process may remain somewhat similar to that of a pap smear, the new method is likely to be more cost effective and require fewer routine screenings. The new screening method was able to detect cervical cancers years in advance, including adenocarcinomas. Adenocarcinoma is a cancer that begins in glandular, or secretory, cells. Up until this trial, adenocarcinomas in the cervix have been immensely difficult to detect. In part because of this, women aged 30 to 65 are currently recommended to have a pap smear every three years—or to combine a pap smear with an HPV test every five years. Due to the success of the trial, researchers believe that cervical cancer screenings using epigenetics will likely be required far less often. Further trials must be conducted to determine exactly how early cancers may be detected, as well as other best practice methods. Though it will at least be several years before epigenetics are widely used for cervical cancer detection, this study effectively demonstrated how cancers could be shaped by the field. The lead researcher of this December 2018 study, Attila Lorincz, anticipates that epigenetics will soon be used in screenings for not only cervical cancer but also prostate, anal and colon cancer. Time—and additional research—will tell. Resources: