Promising Urine Test for Early Detection and Prevention of Cervical Cancer

Promising Urine Test for Early Detection and Prevention of Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer remains one of the most prevalent cancers among women, with around 660,000 new cases and 350,000 deaths reported globally in 2022. Nearly all instances of this cancer are associated with high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. Traditional screening methods focus on detecting HPV DNA, but recent studies suggest that evaluating the oncogenic activity of HPV may provide a more precise assessment of cancer risk.

The Need for a Noninvasive Test

The quest for a more comfortable and accessible screening method has led researchers to explore the potential of a urine-based test. This test aims to detect proteins linked to HPV, which could revolutionize early detection and prevention of cervical cancer.

A team of researchers, including Professor Etsuro Ito from Waseda University, Professor Toshiyuki Sasagawa from Kanazawa Medical University, and Dr. Martin Müller from the German Cancer Research Center, has developed an ultrasensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to identify high-risk HPV16 E7 oncoproteins in urine. Their findings were published in the journal Microorganisms on June 14, 2024.

Advancements in Urine-Based Screening

Professor Ito explains, "Cancer prevention is achievable through vaccination and regular screening. However, screening poses a significant challenge for young women." He continues, "Our new urine test can detect HPV16 E7 proteins, which are crucial indicators of cervical cancer risk, at exceptionally low levels. This advancement means women can potentially screen for cervical cancer without the discomfort of a traditional Pap test."

Currently, cervical cancer screening involves Pap smears or HPV DNA tests, both of which require a healthcare visit and can be uncomfortable. The new urine test offers a noninvasive alternative, potentially increasing participation in regular screening among women.

Methodology and Findings

The research team utilized ELISA to detect E7 oncoproteins in urine samples. The test successfully identified these proteins in women with varying stages of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), a precursor to cervical cancer. Results showed that the ELISA test detected E7 proteins in 80% of women with CIN1, 71% with CIN2, and 38% with CIN3. This suggests a correlation between the presence of E7 oncoproteins and lower-grade CIN lesions. The researchers hypothesize that this variation may be due to differences in the HPV life cycle or its oncogenic activity.

Professor Ito remarks, "We believe the E7 oncoprotein plays a critical role in the early stages of HPV-related cervical carcinogenesis, particularly in the progression of CIN1 and CIN2, more so than in CIN3."

Global Health Implications

This innovative approach aligns with global health objectives to reduce cervical cancer rates, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where traditional screening methods are less accessible. With further development and validation, this urine test could become a standard tool in the fight against cervical cancer, enabling earlier detection and treatment.

The development of a noninvasive urine test for detecting HPV-related proteins marks a significant advancement in cervical cancer screening. This method offers a promising solution to enhance screening rates and lower cervical cancer incidence worldwide.

Future Prospects

Ito concludes, "This new method holds tremendous promise for the early detection and prevention of cervical cancer. We are optimistic that further development and validation of this assay will lead to its widespread adoption in clinical settings."

This breakthrough could transform cervical cancer screening, making it more accessible and less invasive, thereby encouraging more women to participate in regular screenings. The potential to detect HPV-related proteins in urine samples represents a major step forward in the global effort to reduce cervical cancer mortality.

Source

Waseda University

Reference

Makioka, D., et al. (2024). Quantification of HPV16 E7 Oncoproteins in Urine Specimens from Women with Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia. Microorganisms. doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms12061205.

This study was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation of China and the Science Fund Program for Distinguished Young Scholars (Overseas). The promising findings underscore the importance of developing noninvasive screening methods that can be implemented widely, particularly in areas with limited access to traditional healthcare facilities.

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