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News Archive - Progress Newsletter Summer, 1999 Online

Research Roundup: CARE Project Aims to Prevent Cervical Cancer

Since the advent of Pap smears, the incidence of cervical cancer in the United States has dropped dramatically. However, cervical dysplasia (abnormal pre-cancerous cells) remains common among young women. Current treatments involve either minor surgery or freezing the affected area. In an effort to find less invasive treatments for cervical dysplasia, cancer researchers in the departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Family Medicine are conducting a large multi-site trial called the CARE Project.

The CARE Project, funded by the National Cancer Institute, is investigating the effectiveness of tretinoin (a natural derivative of vitamin A) in treating cervical dysplasia and altering the amount of Human Papilloma Virus present on the cervix. HPV is a known risk factor for cervical cancer. As many as 40 percent of women under age 50 are infected with this sexually transmitted virus. Mack Ruffin, M.D., M.P.H., and colleagues suspect the degree of responsiveness to tretinoin may be related to the presence of HPV and the degree to which it has been incorporated into the woman's system.

"Our theory is that if you can treat women with tretinoin when their level of HPV is high, you may be able to block any progression to cervical cancer," says Dr. Ruffin. "We hope that tretinoin will reduce the amount of HPV present, because one of our goals is to find a way to treat and cure HPV. If treatment with this vitamin A derivative influences HPV's cellular activity, we can plan additional studies to see whether such changes relate to the regression of dysplasia," continues Dr. Ruffin.

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