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HIV Drug Reverses Effects of Virus That Causes Cervical Cancer

Researchers see potential treatment (February 17)

In a world-first clinical trial conducted in Africa by researchers from the University of Manchester, a drug commonly used to treat human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection has been shown to kill the human papilloma virus (HPV) that leads to cervical cancer.

The investigators examined women with HPV-positive early-stage cervical cancer who were treated with the antiviral HIV drug lopinavir in Nairobi, Kenya.

The study looked at 40 women with both high- and low-grade precancerous disease of the cervix. Lopinavir, normally used orally to treat HIV, was self-applied directly to the cervix as a pessary.

The results — due to be presented at two international scientific conferences later this month and next — showed that a high proportion of women diagnosed with HPV-positive high-grade disease returned to normal following a short course of the new treatment.

The 40 women, who were all HPV positive with high-grade, borderline, or low-grade disease, were treated with one capsule of lopinavir twice a day for 2 weeks. Repeat cervical smears showed a marked improvement within 1 month of treatment and a definite response after 3 months. Out of 23 women initially diagnosed with high-grade disease, 19 (82.6%) returned to normal and two had low-grade disease, giving an overall positive response rate of 91.2%. Seventeen women diagnosed with borderline or low-grade disease showed similar improvement.

Photographic images of the cervix before and after treatment showed clear regression of the cervical lesions, and no adverse reactions were reported.

“Further work is needed, but it looks as though this might be a potential treatment to stop early-stage cervical cancer caused by HPV,” said investigator Dr. Lynne Hampson.

Source: University of Manchester; February 17, 2014.

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