The HPV virus is linked to several different cancers including cervical cancer and head and neck cancers. Now a new therapy is wiping out the virus before it becomes life-threatening.
For Sandy Lalonde, Cancer was the last thing she was thinking about in her early 30s, until months of irregular periods convinced her to see her doctor for testing.
Sandy LaLonde said, “She said we have bad news.
Your high-risk HPV test came back positive and we’re pretty sure you have cervical cancer.”
The cancer was stage two-a and had spread. Sandy needed eight rounds of chemo and 25 rounds of external radiation to treat it. Doctor Diane Harper is studying a new therapy that she hopes will wipe out cervical cancer by eliminating the HPV virus that can cause it.
Diane Harper, MD, MPH, MS, Senior Associate Director, MICHR, Professor, Family Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Michigan said, “Unlike Chlamydia or Gonorrhea where you can take an antibiotic and get cured, we don’t have anything that will get rid of HPV.”
Researchers enrolled two hundred women with pre-cancerous cervical lesions and gave them three injections one week apart. The therapy was a protein that triggered an immune response.
Diane Harper, MD, mph, ms: “it activates the immune system to go in and find the cells that are infected with HPV or the cells that have started to change because of HPV and attack them.”
At the end of six months between 25 and 33 percent of the participants were cleared of lesions and HPV.
Sandy Lalonde said, “I think having the ability to clear the body of hpv is amazing because just because they don’t have cancer from it doesn’t mean they don’t have a whole host of other complications.”
Doctor Harper says it’s important to note that the vaccine researchers are testing is different from Gardasil, the vaccine given to preteens to prevent HPV.
The vaccine that is being tested clears tissue that already has HPV. Additional trials are still needed.