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.”
- 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
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.
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.
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.