Human papillomavirus (HPV) is very common worldwide, there are more than 100 types, of which at least 14 are high-risk and cause cervical cancer (CCU) which, in 2018, caused the death of 311,000 women worldwide, based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO). However, there seems to be hope to eradicate them.
After 20 years of research, Mexican scientist Eva Ramón Gallegos, of the National School of Biological Sciences (ENCB) of the National Polytechnic Institute (IPN), found a therapy that achieved the elimination of 100% of HPV.
The finding was released on World Cancer Day 2019 and demonstrates, based on molecular studies, that photodynamic therapy achieves total elimination of the virus, as well as premalignant lesions of cervical cancer.
Photodynamic therapy, which has been studied by Ramón Gallegos for two decades, consists of applying a drug called delta aminolevulinic acid to the cervix of the uterus, which after four hours is transformed into protoporphyrin IX, a fluorescent chemical substance that accumulates in damaged cells, which allows only the structures impregnated with it to be eliminated with a special laser beam.
In the clinical phase 420 patients from the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz were treated, as well as 29 in Mexico City, who were infected with HPV, had premalignant lesions on the cervix or had both conditions.
In the first part of the investigation, which included only women from Oaxaca and Veracruz, the treatment was applied on three occasions with an interval of 48 hours each, with a radiation time according to each case and the type of lesion. The results were as follows: in people who only had the virus without lesions, HPV was eliminated in 85%; in those who had the virus with lesions, it was also achieved in the same percentage and in those who had lesions without HPV, success was 42%.
In Mexico City, double the concentration of aminolevulinic delta acid was applied, eliminating HPV in 100% of patients who carried it without lesions, 64.3% in women with viruses and lesions, and 57.2% in those who presented lesions without HPV.
According to the researcher, this therapy has no side effects. “Unlike other treatments, it only eliminates damaged cells and does not affect healthy structures. Therefore, it has great potential to decrease the death rate from cervical cancer,” he explained.
They are the most common cause of viral infection of the reproductive tract and most sexually active women and men will contract the infection at some point in their lives, including recurrent infections.
HPV is transmitted sexually, without necessarily having sexual intercourse with penetration, as direct skin-to-skin contact with the genital area is a recognized mode of transmission, according to WHO.
Also, the body reports that many infections by this type of virus usually disappear without any intervention a few months after having contracted and about 90% recedes after 2 years.
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However, a small percentage of infections with certain types of HPV can persist and develop into cancer.
In 2018, about 311,000 women died of cervical cancer worldwide, with 85 percent of deaths in low- and middle-income countries.
In Mexico, it is estimated that up to 80 percent of the population is infected with HPV, and 90 percent of Mexican women have ever been infected, based on data from the National Women’s Institute.
The average national mortality rate due to this virus in Mexico was 18.24%, placing the country among the first places at the international level and being, at the national level, the second cause of death in women.
The World Health Organization estimates that in 2018 there were 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer (CCU), which accounted for 7.5% of female mortality from cancer, however, stresses that it is curable if diagnosed in early stages.
The comprehensive control of the CCU consists of primary prevention, based on vaccines that protect against HPV 16 and 18, as well as the timely detection and treatment of precancerous lesions and, finally, with the diagnosis and treatment of invasive CCU, says the organism.