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Thursday, 17 February, 2000, 09:14 GMT
Cervical cancer drug 'breakthrough'

smear cells Cervical cancer breakthrough claimed

Scientists claim they have made progress towards one day developing a drug treatment for cervical cancer.

The researchers at York University have determined the structure of a virus protein known to be a principal trigger of cervical cancer and say they expect the breakthrough to lead to the development of antiviral drugs that target the cancer-causing agent.

It opens the door for considerable further work and offers a real possibility of designing a drug
Professor Norman Maitland
However, cancer experts have warned that development of a treatment is a long way off despite the discovery.

The protein belongs to the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is present in more than 90% of cases of cervical cancer.

Professor Norman Maitland, who directed the team, said: "The discovery explains a lot of puzzling data from previous research here and in the USA.

"It opens the door for considerable further work and offers a real possibility of designing a drug to combat the cancer-causing human papillomaviruses."

The work, reported in the journal Nature and funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, was made possible by the development of innovative technology involved in the production of crystals of the HPV protein and followed eight years of investigation.

A number of major drug companies around the world were already expressing an interest in collaborating with the team to develop new drugs, the scientists said.

But Professor Jack Cuzick, head of maths, statistics and epidemiology at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, sounded a word of caution.

He said: "This is an interesting scientific finding and it adds to our knowledge about the human papillomavirus. However, much more research is needed before any clinical value can be put on this discovery."

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See also:
26 Aug 99 |  Health
Virus blamed for all cervical cancers
26 Aug 99 |  Medical notes
Human Papillomavirus: The facts
25 Aug 99 |  Medical notes
Cervical cancer screening

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