Genetic variations help protect women against cervical cancer

March 13th, 2009 - 4:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 13 (IANS) Certain genetic variations in women seem to protect them against cervical cancer, according to a study.
The finding suggests that knowledge of these genetic variants, known as polymorphisms, can provide important information regarding protection against cervical cancer.

Virtually all such cases are caused by persistent infections from several of the human papillomaviruses (HPV) - a family of viruses that also cause common skin warts and genital warts.

HPV is the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in young adults, yet only a small subset of these infections lead to cervical cancer.

“Some people are better able than others to mount an immune response that suppresses their HPV infection,” said Mark H. Einstein, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine (AECM), who led the research.

“We suspected that this advantage was probably due to variations in genes that play key roles in the body’s immune response,” he said.

Accordingly researchers recruited 480 women and divided them into two groups: those with high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), a pre-malignant condition caused by HPV that can lead to cervical cancer; and a control group of women who had tested positive for HPV but had not developed high-grade CIN.

The researchers took cells from the women and looked for genetic differences between the two groups. They focused on a gene called TAP, known to be crucial to the immune system’s ability to recognize viruses and eliminate them from the body.

Einstein and colleagues found that study participants had key differences at two locations in their TAP genes. Those women who possessed one or the other of these two gene variants were less than half as likely as other women to have developed high-grade CIN.

Even women infected with the HPV types most likely to lead to cervical cancer were afforded protection by these variants, said an AECM release.

The paper was published in the February edition of Clinical Cancer Research.

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