A team at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine set out to find a nonsurgical treatment for cervical dysplasia. Cervical dysplasia refers to abnormal, pre-cancerous cervical cells usually caused by human papilloma virus (HPV). In the September 17, 2015 issue of The Lancet, Dr. Cornelia Trimble reported success with a new vaccine.
Cervical dysplasia is classified as low or high grade based on the extent of abnormal cell growth. Low grade cervical dysplasia progresses slowly. Typically, your OBGYN will recommend regular and frequent monitoring, as it often resolves on its own. High grade cervical dysplasia will progress into cancer 30-50% of the time without treatment.
Standard Treatments for Cervical Dysplasia
Your OBGYN may use one of several standard treatments for cervical dysplasia:
- Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP) uses a thin loop wire to remove patches of abnormal cells from the cervix.
- Cone biopsy removes a small, cone-shaped portion of abnormal cervical tissue.
- Hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus and cervix.
Importance of Nonsurgical Intervention
Surgical treatments, which are the current standard, can have a negative impact on fertility. After undergoing a hysterectomy, it is no longer possible to become pregnant. Other treatments for cervical dysplasia, such as LEEP and cone biopsy, may sometimes weaken the cervix. Loss of integrity in the cervix can increase the risk of preterm birth and require increased monitoring by your OBGYN. Finding a nonsurgical treatment for cervical dysplasia could help preserve fertility in women of childbearing age.
A vaccine was created to teach the immune system to identify pre-cancerous cervical cells, which are generally coated in a protein that is linked to one of two HPV strains. Over two years, 107 women between the ages of 18-55 with high grade cervical dysplasia were treated with the vaccine. 35 women received saline injections as part of the control group.
Results of the Study
48% of participants who received all three vaccine injections experienced regression of cervical lesions, compared to 30% of the control group. The cervical lesions were reduced to either low-grade cervical dysplasia or disappeared entirely. Furthermore, of the participants experiencing regression, over 50% of women in the vaccine group no longer showed any signs of HPV- compared to 25% in the control group.
Future of the Vaccine
While the vaccine has shown positive results initially, additional studies are required to verify long-term results. Speak with your OBGYN to keep up with the latest news on cervical dysphasia treatments.