nurse reviewing genetic results

A new genetic test that analyzes multiple sources of DNA may be able to detect high-risk cervical cancer more accurately than other available tests: it showed 90.9% sensitivity in identifying cervical intraepithelial neoplasia 2 lesions. The findings from the proof-of-concept study were reported in Cancer Prevention Research.

The new test is different because it analyzes multiple sources of human cellular DNA that demonstrates precancer alterations, as well as DNA from human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes virtually all cases of cervical cancer. It is also designed to be used with urine samples. Other commercial tests based on DNA markers require Pap tests or swabs of cervical tissue and have only 64% sensitivity in identifying the lesions.

The researchers noted that the test can prevent unnecessary biopsies after abnormal Pap tests that otherwise might cause pain, worry, infertility, and higher healthcare costs. Additionally, they said the test could be used in developing countries that don’t have the money, medical infrastructure, or cultural approval for Pap tests.

Researchers developed the genetic test using 214 cervical cell samples from women aged 18–86 in Chile who had undergone Pap tests. Of the cell samples, 34 had no abnormalities, 87 had one of three types of precancerous, abnormal tissue, and 90 had clear evidence of cervical cancer.

The researchers isolated the DNA from the cell samples and found three genes together that showed a 90% sensitivity and 88.9% specificity in identifying malignancy. They then added
a new gene marker from HPV16-L1, which increased the sensitivity to 90.9%. Currently, the test is only this sensitive when used directly on cervical cells and not on blood or urine, but the researchers said they plan to continue modifying it to improve the urine sensitivity to that of the cervical tissue samples.

An additional benefit of the test is that it takes only four days to process the samples and receive a test result.