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TCGA Study Identifies Genomic Features of Cervical Cancer

Investigators with the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Research Network have identified novel genomic and molecular characteristics of cervical cancer that will aid in the sub-classification of the disease and may help target therapies that are most appropriate for each patient. 

The new study, a comprehensive analysis of the genomes of 178 primary cervical cancers, found that over 70 percent of the tumors had genomic alterations in either one or both of two important cell signaling pathways. The researchers also found, unexpectedly, that a subset of tumors did not show evidence of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The study included authors from NCI and NHGRI and appeared Jan. 23 in Nature.

Cervical cancer accounts for more than 500,000 new cases of cancer and more than 250,000 deaths each year worldwide. “The vast majority of cases of cervical cancer are caused by persistent infection with oncogenic types of HPV,” said NCI acting director Dr. Douglas Lowy. “Effective preventive vaccines against the most oncogenic forms of HPV have been available for a number of years, with vaccination having the long-term potential to reduce the number of cases of cervical cancer. However, most women who will develop cervical cancer in the next couple of decades are already beyond the recommended age for vaccination and will not be protected by the vaccine. Therefore, cervical cancer is still a disease in need of effective therapies. This latest TCGA analysis could help advance efforts to find drugs that target important elements of cervical cancer genomes in addition to the HPV genes.”

An aspect of the study that is of particular interest was the identification of a unique set of eight cervical cancers that showed molecular similarities to endometrial cancers. These endometrial-like cancers were mainly HPV-negative.

“The identification of HPV-negative endometrial-like tumors confirms that not all cervical cancers are related to HPV infection and that a small percentage of cervical tumors may be due to strictly genetic or other factors,” said Dr. Jean-Claude Zenklusen, director of the TCGA program office. “This aspect of the research is one of the most intriguing findings to come out of the TCGA program, which has been looking at more than 30 tumor types over the past decade.”

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

Published 25 times each year, it comes out on payday Fridays.

Associate Editor: Carla Garnett
Carla.Garnett@nih.gov

Staff Writers:

Eric Bock
Eric.Bock@nih.gov

Dana Talesnik
Dana.Talesnik@nih.gov

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