By: Jessica Martin, SDSU Chapter Member
On February 11th, it was announced that a female-led team of Mexican scientists have found a cure for Human Papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV is a very common sexually transmitted disease with over 100 strains, and at least 14 that are known to lead to cervical cancer. In addition, the World Health Organization says that cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women around the world, as well as becoming one of the leading cancer-related causes of death in female patients. This breakthrough could significantly reduce the number of cervical cancer patients and reduce the number of cancer-related deaths, making an enormous impact on the world.
In their study, the team used photodynamic therapy, a non-invasive treatment in which the patient takes a drug called a “photosensitizer” that reacts with a specific wavelength of light to release reactive oxygen that damages nearby DNA. After two decades of hard work researching the effects of photodynamic therapy on many issues including breast cancer and melanoma, Dr. Eva Ramon Gallegos and her team of 18 (14 of which were female researchers and physicians) made an exciting and promising breakthrough.
Gallegos and her team were able to eradicate 100 percent of HPV in 29 patients without cancerous lesions in Mexico City. This treatment was also given to 420 patients with various stages of cervical cancer and HPV in Oaxaca and Veracruz. The data collected from these patients shows that treatment was effective in 64.3% of women who had HPV as well as cervical cancer and effective in 57.2% of women who had cervical cancer but no HPV.
Although these results have not yet been peer-reviewed or replicated, it is a huge stride for women, by women- and it was only fitting that it was announced on International Day of Women and Girls in Science.
Up until this point, the biggest step towards preventing and lowering the transmission of HPV was Gardasil. Gardasil is a vaccine that is typically administered in adolescence to both boys and girls, protecting against 9 of the most dangerous cancer-linked strains of HPV. If Dr. Gallegos and her team continue to perfect their research, we could be approaching a definitive cure for this widespread and destructive disease.
So, as you go through the busy, stressful days of being a STEM student, let this incredible stride in science serve as food for thought. For all of you women researching in labs, looking to find the next big cure: it IS possible. It won’t come easily or quickly, but then again- what good thing does?