March 3rd, 2011

Testing for Individual Types of HPV May Be Important


Persistent infection with a high-risk type of human papillomavirus (HPV) is the principal cause of cervical cancer, and HPV testing can play an important role in cervical cancer screening. A study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology suggests that in addition to doing a pooled test for several high-risk types of HPV, a test that also provides individual results for HPV16 and HPV18 may help to identify women at high risk of serious cervical abnormalities.

Human papillomaviruses consist of more than 100 different viruses. Some types of HPV cause warts on the hands or feet; others cause genital warts; and some have been linked with cancer, most notably cervical cancer. Each year in the United States, there are more than 12,000 new cases of cervical cancer and more than 4,000 deaths from the disease.

The recognition that certain types of HPV can cause cancer led to the development of an HPV test known as Hybrid Capture® 2. It is a pooled test for 13 high-risk types of HPV. For women with a positive result, the test does not identify the individual types of HPV that are present. Previous research has suggested, however, that information about individual HPV types may help clarify a woman’s risk of important cervical abnormalities. HPV types 16 and 18, for example, account for roughly 70% of all cervical cancers.

The cobas® HPV test is an investigational test that simultaneously tests for 12 high-risk types of HPV as well as HPV16 and HPV18 individually. To evaluate the cobas HPV test, researchers conducted a study known as ATHENA (Addressing THE Need for Advanced HPV Diagnostics).

The study focused on women with an indeterminate Pap test result (atypical squamous cells of uncertain significance, or ASC-US). In this population of women, HPV testing can provide information about which women should undergo further evaluation for cervical abnormalities.

These results support the use of the cobas HPV test among women with ASC-US. The results also show that the addition of individual tests for HPV16 and HPV18 can help to identify those women who are most likely to have cervical abnormalities.

Reference: Stoler MH, Wright TC, Sharma A et al. High-risk human papillomavirus testing in women with ASC-US cytology: results from the ATHENA HPV study. American Journal of Clinical Pathology. 2011; 135: 468-475.

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Tags: Cervical Cancer, News, Screening/Prevention Cervical Cancer, Uncategorized