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New Molecular Test Detects More Cervical Cancer Cases

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 06 Jun 2024

Cervical cancer screening is crucial for early detection and prevention. Many countries have comprehensive screening programs that begin with testing for various types of human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus responsible for cervical cancer. The traditional screening process involves a vaginal examination called a colposcopy if cell changes are detected. During a colposcopy, the gynecologist examines the cervix with a microscope and may take a biopsy if necessary. The biopsy, a surgical procedure, can result in negative pregnancy outcomes such as premature delivery. When an HPV-positive result is obtained, it is followed by cytological analysis, which involves examining gynecological cell samples under a microscope, relying on human interpretation. Researchers have now developed a simpler and more effective screening method for cervical cancer than the current one.

The WID-qCIN test, a new molecular test developed by researchers at Karolinska Institutet (Stockholm, Sweden) and the University of Innsbruck (Innsbruck, Austria), has the potential to replace cytological analysis. This test can automatically analyze epigenetic changes in cells, which are changes that influence which genes are active and which are not. Such changes can be affected by factors like the environment, lifestyle, and aging, and can raise the risk of cancer and other diseases. In a study involving more than 28,000 women over 30 who were screened in Stockholm between January and March 2017, the researchers used the WID-qCIN test along with a test for two high-risk HPV types (HPV 16 and 18) to analyze 2,377 HPV-positive samples. This method successfully detected 100% of all invasive cervical cancers and 93% of all serious precancerous lesions within a year of sampling.

Image: Microscopic view of the HPV human papillomavirus that causes cervical cancer (credit: Adobe Stock Images)
Image: Microscopic view of the HPV human papillomavirus that causes cervical cancer (credit: Adobe Stock Images)

Moreover, the new test, combined with the HPV 16/18 test, predicted 69% of all cancers and precancerous lesions up to six years after the sample was taken. In comparison, the current screening method predicts only 18%. In today's screening program, when cell changes are detected, a woman undergoes a vaginal examination (colposcopy), during which the gynecologist uses a microscope to look at the cervix and may take a biopsy if needed. This biopsy can lead to negative pregnancy outcomes, including premature delivery. The results of the recent study indicate that implementing the WID-qCIN test could reduce the number of colposcopy examinations by 40%. The study was published in Nature Medicine on June 4, 2024.

“By integrating the WID-qCIN test into our screening programs, we would be able to identify more cancer cases while reducing the need for invasive procedures,” said Joakim Dillner, Professor at Karolinska Institutet.

“With its simplicity and objective assessment, the WID-qCIN test can improve the effectiveness of these programs and support the global strategy to eliminate cervical cancer,” added Martin Widschwendter, Professor at the University of Innsbruck.

Related Links:
Karolinska Institutet
University of Innsbruck

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