Cervical Cancer : A Preventable Death

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Research on cervical cancer reached a turning point when German virologist Harald zur Hausen discovered that women became susceptible to developing cervical cancer following HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) infection. Awarded with half the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2008, Harald zur Hausen presented novel human papilloma viruses as key contributors to the cancer, as HPV type 16 and 18 genomes and expression of its specific DNA genes merged into the tumour host cell genome. His discovery made it possible to develop a vaccine against the second most common cancer among women, as well as leading to the understanding of cervical carcinogenesis. Methodology of the work

Interested in cervical cancer, Harald zur Hausen started focusing on papillomaviruses by looking into 1930’s literature: researchers Richard Shope and Peyton Rous investigated lentil-like structures on wild rabbits and found that taking extracts from these lesions and infecting domestic rabbits produced similar warts that were gradually converted into tumours. Triggered by this idea, Prof. zur Hausen tried to find herpes viruses in tumours – with no success. He then proposed the idea of using the same technique in the search of human papilloma viruses. Zur Hausen assumed that tumor cells would contain viral DNA incorporated into their own genes. This DNA would lie unreactive without forming new virus particles. In order to track the viral DNA, he
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