Newly discovered genetic differences in two of the most common types of cervical cancer could help doctors better design treatment strategies for patients based on their individual genetic makeup.
Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston identified marked differences in cancer-related gene mutations in two subtypes of cervical cancer — adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
In a report on the findings, published online in the journal Cancer, the researchers said tests of 80 cervical tumor samples turned up the differences and could point the way to tailored treatments that can boost survival in patients.
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"We have historically treated cervical cancers as one disease," said lead researcher Alexi Wright, M.D., with Dana-Farber. "However, our findings suggest that some patients may be at higher risk of dying from their disease and might benefit from a more tailored treatment approach."
The discovery suggests that many patients could benefit from drugs known as PI3-kinase inhibitors or MEK inhibitors, which target proteins associated with the cancer-related genes.
Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide, responsible for 275,000 deaths annually. While Pap tests have helped decrease the incidence of squamous cell cervical cancer, adenocarcinomas now account for nearly a quarter of all cervical cancers, up from 5 percent 20 years ago.
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