A new method of targeting and destroying a key protein linked to the development of cervical and other cancers has been discovered by scientists from the University of Leeds.
HPVs are non-enveloped DNA viruses
The protein E7 prevents the body’s natural defences against the rogue form of cells that can lead to cancer and is produced in the early lifecycle of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Researchers at the University of Leeds' School of Molecular and Cellular Biology have developed a molecule called an RNA aptamer that locates the carcinogenic protein and destroys it.
The research paper is published in the journal PLOS One and was funded by both the Yorkshire Cancer Research and the BBSRC.
Around eight women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each day in the UK, according to Cancer Research UK.
The papillomavirus is a non-enveloped DNA virus capable of infecting humans and whilst most HPVs cause no symptoms in most people they can lead to cervical and other cancers in a small minority.
The HPV can be transmitted by sexual contact and more recently has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Many young women in the United Kingdom are now vaccinated against the virus but women in their mid-20s or older may be HPV positive already.
Dr Nicola Stonehouse, lead researcher of the study, believes screening of the HPV is essential and new therapeutic strategies need to be developed.
“Currently, if you have advanced cervical cancer or head and neck cancer—both of which are associated with human papillomavirus—you really have little choice but surgery.
“If we can use this aptamer to target the carcinogenic protein, we might be talking about much less radical surgery in the future,” Dr Stonehouse said.
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