Most cervical cancers are caused by the Human Papilloma Virus or HPV. Patients of cervical cancer are usually all treated with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation and yet, these treatments do not help almost one-third of such patients. New research shows that these patients might have a previously unidentified subtype of cervical cancer that may not respond to standard chemotherapy and radiation.

Medical researchers from the University of South Carolina have identified this new subtype of cervical cancer that, like other cervical cancers, is triggered by HPV but the virus does not control the growth of this type of cancer. The team analysed 255 cervical cancer samples ad found that two HPV oncogenes – genes that have the potential to transform a normal cell into a tumour cell – are expressed at very high levels in what is called the HPV active class or very low or zero levels in the HPV inactive class. This HV inactive class may cause tumours triggered by the virus, which subsequently grow independent of the virus.

Therefore, standard therapies targeting mutations caused by HPV were unlikely to work for patients with the type of cervical cancer caused the HPV inactive oncogene. In the study published in the journal Oncotarget, the researchers have recommended that doctors managing cervical cancer patients test for HPV oncogene expression in these tumors and consider personalised treatment based on the HPV activity found.