Husband and wife team discover cervical cancer treatment breakthrough using HIV drug

HPV researchers Drs. Lynne and Ian Hampson.

Every two minutes, a woman dies of cervical cancer, mostly in low-resource countries. But now, in the world's first clinical trial, a commonly used HIV drug may offer a light at the end of the tunnel to those suffering from one of the most common types of cancer in women.

Drs Ian and Lynne Hampson, from the University of Manchester’s Institute of Cancer Sciences and Dr Innocent Orora Maranga, Consultant in Obstetrics and Gynecology in Nairobi examined 40 Kenyan women who tested positive for human papilloma virus (HPV) and were diagnosed with early stage cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is caused by an infection with HPV and is more than five times more prevalent in East Africa than the UK. 

The women in the study were then treated with the antiviral HIV drug lopinavir. The researchers findings showed women with high-grade disease revert to a normal healthy cervix within a comparatively short period of time. The University of Manchester has more details:

The 40 women, who were all HPV positive with either high-grade, borderline or low grade disease, were treated with one capsule of the antiviral drug twice a day for 2 weeks. Out of 23 women initially diagnosed with high-grade disease, 19 (82.6%) had returned to normal and two now had low-grade disease giving an overall positive response in 91.2% of those treated. Furthermore the 17 women initially diagnosed with borderline or low-grade disease also showed similar improvement.

While current HPV drugs and vaccines aim at prevention, lopinavir could be the world’s first drug used to fight the disease, instead of widely used surgical treatment.