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Imiquimod proves effective as cervical pre-cancer treatment

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Imiquimod proves effective as Cervical Pre-Cancer Treatment

Cervical cancer in early stages can now be treated without the need for surgery as researchers at Vienna Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) developed a new innovative method based on Imiquimod. This new treatment has already been tested in clinical trials and it seems to be effective and well tolerated by patients. It is a well-known fact that infection with HPV, human papilloma virus, causes cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), which is the early stage of cervical cancer. HPV infection is one of the most common sexually transmitted infection along with gonococcal infection, chlamydia and others. HPV affects the genital area in both women and men but it can also affect other areas such as the mouth or throat. Sometimes HPV infection goes away without causing health problems in some individuals but in others HPV causes warts or various types of cancer.

Cervical Pre-Cancer

Cervical Cancer

Statistics show that in Europe more than 200 000 women are diagnosed each year with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, and most of them are women aged between 20 and 30 years. In most cases, CIN 1, that is the early stage of cervical cancer, has mild manifestations and does not require specific treatment because it heals on its own ( it requires however careful monitoring). In more advanced forms (CIN 2 or 3), conisation is performed, which means that damaged tissues are excised in cone-shaped sections. This surgery intervention is the standard treatment for CIN 2 or 3, but it should be noted however that this intervention involves a risk of relapse. In addition to this complication, there is the risk of bleeding or infection and perhaps the most important complication is that of preterm birth risk.

To avoid these complications (premature birth, bleeding, infection), researchers have sought to develop a new method of treatment less risky. So they developed a form of topical treatment (suppositories) based on Imiquimod, an agent that alters local immune response. When it comes in contact with the cervix, this drug causes local inflammation that destroys damaged tissue areas.

Paul Speiser, senior physician in the Department of General Gynaecology and Gynaecological Oncology, part of the Comprehensive Cancer Center of the Medical University Vienna Vienna and head of the study, explained that HPV causes changes that are not always recognized by the immune system and these changes can lead to the development of CIN. Because of the local immune activation by imiquimod, these areas of dysplasia (CIN) can be recognized and destroyed by the immune system itself.

New treatment method was effective and was well tolerated by patients. Still further studies are needed before it can become routine treatment. “The initial data are very promising. The agent seems to be very effective in the treatment of a CIN 2 and 3, is simple to use in this application and is considerably less invasive than a surgical intervention”, researchers said.