Uterine cervical cancer arises from the cervix and is associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) infection in more than 90% of the cases. In the last few years there have been several advances in prevention, early diagnosis and treatment including vaccination, Pap smear and colposcopic management. Nevertheless, advanced stage or recurrent tumors continue to be diagnosed in the general population and are currently treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy often with potentially serious adverse effects and less than optimal efficacy.
As such, there is increasing research directed at molecular targeted therapies, treatment modalities that block cancer cells by interfering with specific molecular mechanisms necessary for tumor growth. However, clinicians need access to several target strategies as drug resistance is a common problem.
A team of researchers at the Zhengzhou University, China, has tested a novel targeted treatment for cervical and ovarian cancers called suramin and published their results in the most recent issue of Cancer Cell International journal. This study led by Dr. HuaPing Li looked at the effects of suramin in ovarian and cervical cancer cells using several modern molecular methods including immunocytochemistry, in situ hibridization and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction.
The investigators found that the treatment blocked tumor cell growth through inhibition of heparanase, a protein frequently found in these tumor cells and associated with a poor disease prognosis. This inhibitory effect was higher as the time of exposure and/or dose increased.
These results are very encouraging and represent another step in the research for optimal advanced, recurrent and/or metastatic cervical cancer therapy. Although cancer treatment efficacy was achieved with lower than toxic concentrations of the drug, these are only in vitro studies that need confirmation in future clinical studies with real patients. In the future, suramin might be used either as solo therapy or combination therapy with chemotherapy for advanced female genital tract cancer.