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Genetic cause for some cervical cancers.

Although studies have linked 80 percent of cervical cancer cases to infection with some types of human papilloma virus (HPV), physicians continue to see fast-growing cervical cancers in women who test negative for HPV infection. French scientists now suggest that a cancer-causing gene, or oncogene, may be to blame for some of these extremely aggressive cervical cancers.

Guy Riou of the Gustave Roussy Institute in Villejuif, working with researchers at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, studied 94 women treated for early-stage cervical cancer, some of whom progressed to advanced cervical cancer. The team found that women who were not infected with HPV -- but who carried the c-myc oncogene--had a 33-fold higher risk of later developing advanced cancer than did women who were infected with HPV and did not carry the gene.

Riou says this suggests that very aggressive cervical cancers and slower-growing tumors may spring from different causes.

However, he says his group did not find the c-myc oncogene in all HPV-negative patients who developed fast-growing cancers. HPV-negative women who lacked the oncogene were still nine times more likely to develop advanced cervical cancer than were the HPV-positive women.

Riou says he hopes his group's results will help doctors identify women who are likely to develop aggressive cervical cancers so that these patients can get intensive therapy in the early stages of their disease. But before physicians can routinely use the presence of c-myc to spot individuals at high risk for advanced cervical cancer, he says, "we need to evaluate these findings in a large number of patients."
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Author:Ezzell, Carol
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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