7 Oct 2016

Research paves way for cervical cancer wonder drug

11:46 am on 7 October 2016

New Zealand scientists are a step closer to creating a wonder drug for cervical cancer.

Equipment used in cervical cancer screening

Equipment used in cervical cancer screening. Photo: GARO / Phanie

Otago University researchers have worked out how human papillomavirus, which causes cervical cancer, can evade its hosts' immune systems.

Associate professor Merilyn Hibma, lead author of the study, said cancer-causing protein E7 stopped the immune system from attacking the HPV, which could lead to cervical cancer.

Ms Hibma said the discovery opened the door to immunotherapy.

"Many women will have an immune response that will actually naturally clear that virus but there are some women there's a persistent infection," she said.

"What we want to do is block the inhibition of the immune response," she said.

"And by doing that we can potentially activate immunity and allow the woman's body to naturally clear the virus and potentially also the cancer cells."

She said the research could lead to treatment similar to keytruda, which is used for melanoma.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs