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Wednesday 10 July 2024

New study to better understand cervical cancer

Southampton researchers are investigating what makes some cervical cancers more aggressive than others.

Their insights could help find more effective treatments for women who are diagnosed with the disease.

Cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers in women under the age of 44. Around 700 people a year die from the disease.

Damian Amendra, an NIHR-funded academic clinical fellow at the University of Southampton (UoS), is leading the study. He is also a specialist registrar at University Hospital Southampton.

Important discovery

Around 3,300 people are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year. That’s nearly nine new cases each day.

The most common type is cervical squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC).

A recent discovery by UoS researchers revealed that CSCC can be divided into two distinct molecular subgroups: C1 and C2.

They found that C2 cancers are more clinically aggressive and have different genetic changes. They also have a lower number of killer T-cells - the white blood cells responsible for killing tumour cells.

Unlocking new insights

The new study is funded by the Pathological Society and the Jean Shanks Foundation.

Researchers will take a closer look at the genes expressed by each individual cell within a set of CSCC samples. These were previously donated by patients.

They will provide new insights into the biology of CSCC by studying the differences between the tumours in fine detail. This work will bring new understanding of why C2 tumours behave so aggressively. It could also help identify new targets for cervical cancer treatment.

Dr Amendra said: “We have entered a new age of pathology and precision medicine that was spearheaded by large-scale projects such as the Human Genome Project and 100,000 Genomes Project. This allows us to look at detailed molecular information in tissues, in high detail and on a large scale.

“If we can better understand the biology behind the differences in C1 and C2 cancers, we may be able to move to more individualised treatments and targeted therapies. This will help improve outcomes for our patients.”