London: In a world-first clinical trial, scientists have found that a commonly-used HIV drug can kill off the human papilloma virus (HPV) that leads to cervical cancer.
The trial was led by The University of Manchester in UK with Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) in Nairobi. Researchers examined Kenyan women diagnosed with HPV positive early stage cervical cancer who were treated with the antiviral HIV drug lopinavir in Kenya.
The study looked at 40 women with both high and low-grade pre-cancerous disease of the cervix and the antiviral drug, normally used orally to treat HIV, was self-applied directly to the cervix as a pessary.
The results showed a high proportion of women diagnosed with HPV positive high-grade disease returned to normal following a short course of the new treatment.
The women were treated with one capsule of the antiviral drug twice a day for 2 weeks.
Repeat cervical smears showed a marked improvement within one month of the treatment although after three months, there was a definite response.
Out of 23 women initially diagnosed with high-grade disease, 19 (82.6 per cent) had returned to normal and two now had low-grade disease giving an overall positive response in 91.2 per cent of those treated.
Furthermore, the 17 women initially diagnosed with borderline or low-grade disease also showed similar improvement.
Photographic images of the cervix before and after treatment showed clear regression of the cervical lesions and no adverse reactions were reported.
“For an early stage clinical trial the results have exceeded our expectations. We have seen women with high-grade disease revert to a normal healthy cervix within a comparatively short period of time,” said Dr Ian Hampson from the Manchester University’s Institute of Cancer Sciences.
“We are convinced that further optimisation of the dose and treatment period will improve the efficacy still further,” Hampson said.
“Current HPV Vaccines are prophylactics aimed at preventing the disease rather than curing or treating symptoms. Other than surgery, as yet there is no effective treatment for either HPV infection or the pre-cancerous lesion it causes which is why these results are so exciting,” added Dr Lynne Hampson from Manchester University.
“Further work is needed but it looks as though this might be a potential treatment to stop early stage cervical cancer caused by HPV,” Lynne said.