The DNA Test That Could Help Cut Cervical Cancer Deaths; HOPE FINDINGS COULD LEAD TO IMPROVED SMEAR TESTS

Article excerpt

Byline: MADELEINE BRINDLEY

QUESTION marks about the future of conventional smear tests have been raised by new research suggesting a form of DNA testing is more effective.

Dutch researchers have concluded that human papilloma virus (HPV) DNA testing is the best cervical cancer screening option for all women over 30.

Two strains of HPV, a sexually transmitted infection, cause the majority of cases of cervical cancer.

A major trial has found the DNA testing method can detect the lesions, which lead to cervical cancer, earlier and help prevent more cervical cancer than cytology alone.

The results of the trial could change the way smear tests are read in the future, although the physical test is likely to remain the same.

Results of the POBASCAM trial, published today by The Lancet Oncology, provide strong evidence in favour of using HPV testing in national screening programmes.

Commenting on the findings, Hormuzd Katki and Nicolas Wentzensen, from the National Cancer Institute, in Bethesda, US, said: "POBASCAM reinforces findings from cohort studies, clinical trials, and routine clinical practice by providing overwhelming evidence of the benefits of inclusion of HPV testing in screening programmes."

The POBASCAM trial, which was led by Chris Meijer at the VU University Medical Centre, in Amsterdam, studied almost 45,000 women aged 29 to 56, attending routine cervical screening in the Netherlands.

They examined whether HPV testing resulted in fewer high-grade cervical lesions and cervical cancer in the second round of screening because of earlier detection and treatment of lesions, and assessed the most appropriate age for starting HPV testing. …