A massive scientific achievement has been achieved by researchers at Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute (IPN). They have developed a new treatment that they claim can completely cure the human papillomavirus (HPV), helping to curb a leading cause of deadly cancer among women. It has been successful in treating dozens of women in Mexico already. The most remarkable thing about this research is that this therapy doesn’t have any collateral damage (side effects) to the human body.
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) with over 150 types that exist worldwide. It results from skin-to-skin contact between genitalia. Some cases of the virus have been known to disappear shortly after, up to several months following transmission; while other cases have led to genital warts or cervical, anal, oral and other cancers. Even though it is the most common form of STD, there has not been a cure for the infection – until this breakthrough.
The team (consisting mostly of women scientists) that has managed this wonderful feat was led by scientist Eva Ramon Gallegos. They had been studying the therapeutic method for about two decades already in hopes to find approaches to prevent or roll back precancerous abnormalities and tumors, including melanoma and the early stages of breast cancer. Finally, they began to see positive results.
So far, they have been able to eradicate HPV in 29 patients through a non-invasive technique known as photodynamic therapy. Since the beginning, about 420 patients in the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Veracruz were treated with the therapy, along with 29 women in Mexico City. Gallegos’s earlier research has been published in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology back in April 2017.
“During the first stage of research, when it was used to treat women in Oaxaca and Veracruz, we had encouraging results. The treatment also showed hopeful signs in its applications in the capital [Mexico City], which opens the possibility of making the treatment more effective and tailored to the specific needs of patients.”
Gallegos had been experimenting the past two decades with various applications of photodynamic therapy in order to find the most effective combination of chemicals to treat HPV and cervical cancer. This particular trial that went so well involved her applying a drug called aminolevulinic delta acid to the cervixes of the patients.
First, all prospect patients underwent a colposcopy, pap smear, hybrid capture test, polymerase chain reaction and a biopsy to diagnose any premalignant lesions or HPV infections. The patients chosen to receive this treatment had either been diagnosed with two HPV strains commonly associated with cancer, premalignant lesions, or both.
The treatment involved the use of a drug called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent. After a few hours, the drug makes its way into the nucleus of nearby cancer cells and shines with a bright fluorescent glow so that scientists can track its progress. Once the drug reaches its target, the researchers activate it using a special laser beam (wavelength of light) that causes the chemical to destroy the cancer cells. The best part is, there has been a complete lack of any known side effects or damage to those who have undergone the therapy.
Gallegos explained to Cuba’s Radio Guama:
“Unlike other treatments, it only eliminates damaged cells and does not affect healthy structures. Therefore, it has great potential to decrease the death rate from cervical cancer.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cervical cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer among women worldwide, with 550,000 new cases diagnosed every year. Of these cases, more than half die. For example, in 2018 about 311,000 women around the world died of cervical cancer. 85% of them occurring in the developing and undeveloped world.
A lack of sexual education and other issues (depends on the country) leads to unplanned pregnancies and STDs such as HPV proliferate among young women and adolescents, with girls as young as 12 contracting the disease. One issue for example, in Mexico, religious groups and conservative associations (the country’s Ministry of Public Education even) refuse to allow the implementation of sexual education courses.
It is amazing that Professor Gallegos has even made it as far as she has. She is extremely happy and proud that she has achieved her goal to cure women. In Mexico, progress in the fight against diseases is complicated by bureaucratic stalling and state budget cuts that choke off resources for the scientific community.
“When there are budget cuts, the first affected are science and the arts – as if they are not necessary. I think the main problem is money and bureaucracy, these are a great burden because the process is so slow to ask for supplies and receive them. Actually, I think that (the government) should facilitate funds so that everything required for these studies arrives quickly, so we have more of a stimulus in terms of researchers and scientists.”