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Behind the headlines: Scientists develop more accurate predictive test for cervical cancer

Posted on: Wednesday, 19th October 2022 by Eluned Hughes, Head of Information and Engagement

You might have seen stories in newspapers today about a new kind of test for detecting cervical cell changes and helping prevent cervical cancer. A new study published this week has found that a new kind of test could be more accurate at detecting cervical cell changes, and better at predicting who might develop cell changes in the future.  

What is the study? 

Published in Genome Medicine, this new test looks at DNA markers and could be used in the future as a predictive test for breast, womb, cervical, and ovarian cancer. 

Currently, cervical screening tests first for HPV (which causes 99.7%) of cervical cancer, and if HPV is detected then the sample is sent on to cytology for further tests. This new kind of test, known as ‘WID-CIN, was found to be more effective than cytology at picking up which women had advanced cell changes that needed treatment.  

A study carried out on 1,254 cervical screening samples found that the WID test picked up 30% more women with advanced cell changes than current methods. It also proved to be useful at predicting which people with HPV would go on to develop cell changes in the next 4 years – accurately detecting 55% of people who were later diagnosed with cell changes. This could mean more tailored monitoring and earlier treatment for women with cervical cell changes that risk turning cancerous. 

What does that mean for me? 

While this research is in its early stages, and this new test is unlikely to be rolled out to the public soon, it is always promising to see research, development, and progress in cervical screening and cervical cancer prevention. It is especially exciting that this new kind of test might be able to predict other kinds of cancer too, so women can be more informed about their health and cancer risks.  

As the evidence suggested this test was less effective in younger women, we look forward to seeing more research into how this could be addressed, as well as how well the test performs using screening samples from women who have been vaccinated against HPV, and from samples taken with a vaginal swab. We will also be waiting optimistically to see large-scale future studies evaluating the use of these tests, to provide evidence of their performance in real-world settings. 

 Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust CEO Samantha Dixon commented, “We welcome new advances in research which may have the potential to better prevent and detect cervical cancer. It is early days, but hopefully it will contribute to paving the way for even better tests in the future!