Scientists have managed to successfully cure cervical cancer in mice, paving the way for a cure in humans very soon.
Researchers at the Griffith University in Australia announced on Wednesday that they used gene-editing technology CRISPR to destroy cervical cancer tumours in mice.
“This is the first cure for any cancer using this technology,’’ said the lead researcher and director of Infectious Diseases and Immunology at Menzies Health Institute Queensland, Professor Nigel McMillan.
McMillan’s team had been working on this project for five years. They claim trials in humans using this technology can begin by 2024.
What’s the science behind it?
CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology uses “stealth” nanoparticles to cut away specific parts of cell DNA and kill tumorous cells. The targeted gene is the E7 gene found in cancers caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV).
Comparing the method to a spell-checker tool, McMillan told ABC: “This is like adding a few extra letters into a word so the spell checker doesn’t recognise it anymore. Because the cancer must have this gene to produce, once edited, the cancer dies.”
Why is this significant?
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women around the world, according to the WHO. It is also the third leading cause of cancer deaths in women.
Pakistan has been ranked seventh out of 50 countries by the Women Cervical Cancer Global Crisis Card (CCGCC) for the highest number of cervical cancer deaths. Getting the HPV vaccine is the recommended way to prevent the disease.
The ideal age for girls is any time after nine years of age or prior to becoming sexually active. Every woman over 30 years should get a pap smear test done once every three years to screen for cervical cancer.