Cervical Cancer Breakthrough: Peculiar Stem-Like Cells in Cervix Found Responsible
Scientists have identified a discrete population of stem-like cells with unique structure responsible for causing cervical cancer. stock.xchng

Scientists have achieved a major breakthrough in finding the cause of cervical cancer, resolving various speculations and the mystery behind cervical cancer in women around the world.

Doctors from Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, Genome Institute and Institute of Medical Biology in Singapore, University of California and University of Liege have identified a discrete population of stem-like cells with unique structure responsible for causing cervical cancer, according to a recent study.

The study suggests that cervical cancer is caused when these newly covered stem-like cells are infected by carcinogenic human papillomaviruses (HPV), the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract.

However, the specific cells targeted by HPV have not been identified and the cellular origin of cervical cancer remains elusive, lead authors of the report - A discrete population of squamocolumnar junction cells implicated in the pathogenesis of cervical cancer - write in their study findings published in the 11 June issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women after breast cancer and also has the second highest mortality rate, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

World Health Organization (WHO) statistics suggest that about half a million women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year and nearly half of them die due to the cancer.

While genital infection with HPV is known to be the cause of cervical cancer in 99 per cent of the cases, vaccination against the HPV can still not eradicate cervical cancer, but can only prevent it and reduce its prevalence substantially, WHO states.

With the new study, scientists expect to find a way through better preventive measures and eradication of cervical cancer. "The findings in this study uncover a potential target for cervical cancer prevention, provide insight into the risk assessment of cervical lesions, and establish a model for elucidating the pathway to cervical cancer following carcinogenic HPV infection," the authors of the report said.