Ryan Lau | @agorisms
Last Thursday marked an impressive step forward in the prevention of cancer. Amidst recent statements from an Israel-based company that they would be able to develop a cure within a year, the medical and public communities alike have been eager for development. However, further analysis showed that they only intend to have a treatment ready for human clinical trials. For cancer treatments, far fewer than 10% of them receive eventual approval for public use. But now, a group of scientists in Mexico is jumping for joy. Eva Ramón Gallegos of Mexico City’s Instituto Politecnico Nacional (IPN), one of the nation’s largest universities, has successfully administered what she touts as an effective HPV cure.
Gallegos and her colleagues believed that photodynamic therapy showed promise as an HPV cure. This process involves the interaction between light and a certain drug called a photosensitizer. When the light hits the drug, it produces an active form of oxygen that kills all nearby cells.
Already, scientists have used photodynamic therapy to develop a treatment for esophageal cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. To do so, doctors inject the drug into the bloodstream of affected patients. After 1 to 3 days, it remains in cancer cells while leaving most healthy cells. At that point, they can expose the tumor to light, allowing the oxygen to form and kill the cells that still have the drug in them. But due to the need for light, this treatment is not available for all forms of cancer.
Despite this, Gallegos’ study suggests that photodynamic therapy can also be an effective HPV cure. In it, she and her colleagues treated women in Mexico City who reported HPV, cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN, a precancerous cervical growth) or both.
In 2017, they administered three doses of the drug delta-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) to 30 women. The doses were administered 48 hours apart from each other and 4 hours after the initial drug was applied to the cervix. Results were incredible: 83 percent of the women with HPV and CIN cleared an HPV test, as did 80 percent of the women with HPV, but no CIN.
But this wasn’t enough for Gallegos. Over the span of two years, she refined her methods, eventually coming up with another means. For the 2019 study, she doubled the dose of 5-ALA and administered it twice, rather than three times. This time, she achieved what she had been aiming for: complete eradication of HPV. Of 29 women with the same conditions, 100% of those with HPV saw an elimination of the virus. For the women with HPV and CIN, however, the figure fell to 64%.
An HPV Cure… And What Else?
By the end of the study, Gallegos was able to replicate her results, showing their effectiveness. Moreover, she stressed that unlike many other treatment options, photodynamic therapy as an HPV cure is nearly risk-free. She stated, “Unlike other treatments, this only removes damaged cells and doesn’t affect the healthy ones”.
The treatment also proved effective in removing infections that were Chlamydia or Candida albicans-related. A number of the women test positive for these and in 81% and 80% of cases, photodynamic therapy removed the bacteria.
Gallegos’ findings show a huge step forward in the treatment of both STDs and cancer. If women receive the treatment successfully while they have HPV, it will drastically reduce their later risk of cervical cancer. Thus, the study may pave the way to widespread use of photodynamic therapy as an HPV cure.
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