New HPV discovery could boost cervical cancer treatments

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A new enzyme discovered by researchers could lead to the development of new treatments for cervical cancer and other cancers caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV)

There may be more ammunition in the arsenal against human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is responsible for nearly all cases of cervical cancer and 95 percent of anal cancers. It is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world, affecting 50%-75% of sexually active people. Most have no idea that are infected or that they could be spreading it.

Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have detected an enzyme called USP46, which is essential for HPV-induced tumor formation and growth and USP46 enzyme promises to be very susceptible to drugs. “So we are very excited by this possibility that by inactivating USP46 we’ll have a way to treat HPV-caused cancers,” said UVA researcher Anindya Dutta, chairman of UVA’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics.

enzyme USP46 is specific to HPV strains that cause cancer. It is not used by other strains of HPV that do not cause cancer

Results showed that E6 uses USP46 to stabilize other cellular proteins and prevent them from being degraded. Both activities of E6 are critical to the growth of cancer. The researchers noted that enzyme USP46 is specific to HPV strains that cause cancer. It is not used by other strains of HPV that do not cause cancer, they added.

HPV vaccine is yet to be included in the Universal Immunisation Programme in India due to some discordant voices questioning the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer in females in India. According to the National Health Profile 2017, there were 97909 cases of cervical cancer in 2015 and it is projected to go up to 104060 by 2020.

There is a vaccine for prevention of HPV infection called Gardasil 9, the recombinant 9-valent vaccine. It had been previously approved for minors and people up to 26 years of age. The US Food and Drug Administration has in october 2018 expanded the coverage of HPV vaccine to include men and women aged 27 to 45 years. It protects against 9 strains of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), those most likely to cause cancers and genital warts.

HPV is known to cause cancer by producing proteins that stop healthy cells’ natural ability to prevent tumors. However attempts to block one of those proteins, called oncoprotein E6 have proved unsuccessful. Results of the study were published in the scientific journal Molecular Cell.