Can a contraceptive drug really prevent and cure cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer as well as the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in women worldwide.

Myupchar November 14, 2019 17:59:49 IST
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Can a contraceptive drug really prevent and cure cervical cancer?
  • Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer as well as the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in women worldwide. Scientists now say there might be an effective way to beat this cancer - a contraceptive injection that's already available in the market.

  • Scientists now say there might be an effective way to beat this cancer - a contraceptive injection that's already available in the market

  • The study has only been conducted on a group of mice and has yet to undergo a human trail

Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer as well as the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in women worldwide. Scientists now say there might be an effective way to beat this cancer - a contraceptive injection that's already available in the market.

The American Journal of Pathology published a report which stated the use of Medroxyprogesterone Acetate (MPA) present in Depo-Provera, a contraceptive injection, could help in preventing the growth of cervical cancer and eradicating the precancerous lesions.

Can a contraceptive drug really prevent and cure cervical cancer

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

A previous study done on mice had shown that MPA diminishes cervical cancer caused by the HPV gene. The new study was conducted on a group of mice by Dr Sang-Hyuk Chung and his fellow associates at the University of Houston. It focuses on treating mice with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) using MPA. CIN is a precancerous stage in which the growth of abnormal cancer cells in the cervix has just begun.

The study

Since the available surgical procedures for the removal of CIN lesions were extremely effective, little research had been done for finding other alternatives to deal with CIN.

The effectiveness of the surgery was only challenged when an increase in the chances of preterm birth and infant mortality in future pregnancies was noticed. Since the incidence of CINs is highest among women between 20 and 40 years of age, the need for new treatment options was at a peak.

Dr Chung concluded in his study that MPA not only treats CIN lesions but also provides chemoprevention for cervical cancer. Although the dosage used in this study was higher than the contraceptive dose, it falls within the range used in a clinical trial in endometrial cancer.

In the study, MPA either made the cancer cells kill themselves (apoptosis) or stop their further division (terminal differentiation), thus wiping out cancer.

CIN was regressed with MPA treatment for one month, but for complete removal of cervical cancer, MPA treatment needs to be continued until the patient’s immune system clears the HPV infection from within.

The study further showed that cervical cancer vanished in the group of mice who were treated with three months of MPA and six months of postmenopausal estrogen replacement therapy (E2). 

Benefits of using MPA

Initially, fulvestrant (a drug used for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer) was used for the same study to prevent cervical cancer but caused menopausal symptoms in young women. 

Since MPA is commonly used as an injectable contraceptive, it is relatively inexpensive to research with, can be stored at room temperature and does not require special skills or instruments for administration. It also didn’t result in the side-effects noted with fulvestrant. This made MPA a better choice of drug for chemoprevention from cervical cancer.

When MPA was used, a side effect noted was vaginal atrophy (drying and inflammation of the vaginal wall). It was relieved in postmenopausal women when used with estrogen.

MPA attaches and activates hormonal receptors like the glucocorticoid receptor and androgen receptor. Increased glucocorticoid receptors help in giving a better prognosis in cervical cancer.

The study has only been conducted on a group of mice and has yet to undergo a human trail. If the treatment turns out to be effective, it will enhance the health and wellness of women on a global scale.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our articles on Cervical Cancer.

Updated Date:

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