Major Risk Factor For Cervical Cancer Found

May 21, 1998

Scientists have found that women who carry a particular variation of the tumour suppressor gene p53 are seven times more likely to develop cervical cancer that those who do not. The researchers' findings are published today (21 May 1998) in the science journal Nature*.

The work was carried out by scientists from the Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) Skin Tumour Laboratory and Department of Medical Microbiology at St Bartholomew's and Royal London Hospital School of Medicine and Dentistry, London, the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Italy, and the Institute for Parasitology and McGill Cancer Centre, Quebec, Canada.

Doctors already know that infection by certain types of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is almost essential for cervical cancer to develop. Major advances have been made in understanding how these viruses cause cancer. However, much less in known about how an individuals' genetic makeup may contribute to cervical cancer development.

P53 is a key control point in the body's defence against tumour formation. It protects the genetic information in the cells from things which can damage them such as ultra violet radiation or certain chemicals. If p53 goes wrong then a cell has a greater chance of becoming cancerous.

Dr Alan Storey, leader of the ICRF research team, explained: "P53 is often defective in many forms of cancer but in cancers caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) it is usually normal. Instead, HPV produces a protein, called E6, which stops p53 from working correctly."

People can carry one of two variations of the p53 gene, p53Arg or p53Pro. The researchers found that p53Arg is more easily inactivated by the HPV protein. This suggested that people who carry only p53Arg might be less well protected against the effects of HPV.

Said Dr Storey: "We found that cervical cancers resulting from HPV infection were significantly more likely to occur in women who had only p53Arg. This implies that p53Arg is a major risk factor for cervical cancer."

The research team now plans to do further, larger, studies in different populations to confirm and extend their findings.

"In the future testing for p53 status may prove to be another useful tool in assessing a woman's risk for developing cervical cancer," commented Dr Storey.

The findings also have implications for certain skin cancers which are linked to HPV infection and exposure to ultra-violet radiation. Organ transplant patients who, because they take drugs to suppress their immune systems, have a high risk of developing the skin cancer squamous cell carcinoma(SCC). The SCCs which occur in these patients are linked to ultra-violet radiation and HPV infection and appear five to 10 years after the transplant.

The study showed that the Arg variant conferred a strong susceptibility to SCC in these patients. Seventy five per cent of the transplant patients with SCC had p53Arg only and 25 per cent had p53Arg/Pro.

"SCC in transplant patients is a very big clinical problem," said Professor Irene Leigh, head of the ICRF Skin Tumour Laboratory. "Many of these patients are particularly vulnerable to skin cancer and can develop many tumours which often require extensive surgery. These findings indicate that those patients who have p53Arg are at greater risk of developing SCC and we shall be carrying out further research in this area."


*Role of a p53 polymorphism in the development of human papillomavirus-associated cancer. Nature 21 May 1998.


Imperial Cancer Research Fund - Background Brief

The Imperial Cancer Research Fund is dedicated to the understanding, prevention, treatment and cure of all forms of cancer. Its scientists and doctors are at the forefront of the worldwide effort to defeat the disease. The charity relies almost totally on voluntary funding to carry out its vital work.

Web site:

Christine Suggars. Tel: +44-171-269-3614 or +44-171-242-0200

Imperial Cancer Research Fund

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to