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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

New test looks to improve cervical cancer detection

23 November, 2012
Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have developed new methods of minimising the number of missed cases of cervical cancer while also making diagnosis more reliable.


Routine smear tests have reduced the number of cases of cervical cancer, but despite intensive screening 250 women in Sweden still die from the disease every year a and a further 500 develop the disease each year.



Since the introduction of organised screening in Sweden in the 1960s, the number of women being diagnosed with and succumbing to cervical cancer has fallen. Screening, where a sample of cells is collected from the cervix and examined under an optical microscope, detects early cell changes so that they can be treated before they cause cancer.



The sensitivity of the current test is low, which means that cell samples must be taken at least every three years. A large number of tests must also be repeated because of unreliable results – something which causes anxiety among patients and additional costs for the health service.



Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg have developed a complementary test capable of minimising the number of missed cancer cases.



"Around 70 per cent of all cervical cancer cases are caused by two specific virus types, known as HPV16 and HPV18. We have developed a method that identifies proteins of these oncogenic viruses in cells, enabling a more objective interpretation of the test results," explained Maria Lidqvist, a doctoral student, who presents the method in her thesis.



"This method can hopefully produce a more reliable diagnosis in uncertain cases and reduce the number of missed cancer cases, as well as the number of women who have to be re-called because of cell samples that are difficult to interpret."



The research behind this method has been financed by the Swedish Research Council and conducted at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, in collaboration with Fujirebio Diagnostics AB in Gothenburg.


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