Point-of-care blood test offers diagnostic potential for HPV-related cancers

A potential breakthrough in the early detection of the neck, head and anal cancers linked to human papillomavirus (HPV) has emerged. It is based on a highly specific diagnostic test that appears to indicate cancer, and predict its course, from just a pinprick of blood. There are more than 200 types of HPV, with the most aggressive, HPV-16, responsible for over 90% of all HPV- related head and neck tumours, and over 70% of all cases of cervical cancer. The new point-of-care biomarker test detects levels of a specific antibody (DRH1) to HPV-16.

Findings from a multicentre European clinical study evaluating the new marker test have been published in EBioMedicine ( article/PIIS2352-3964(20)30179-1/fulltext), one of The Lancet stable of medical journals. The study scientists have been able to demonstrate a link between rising levels of these HPV antibodies and cancer.

The study was led by Dr Thomas

Weiland from Austria’s Medical University of Graz. He explained: “This is the first time that we have been able to show a link between raised levels of this specific antibody and HPV cancers, indicating

the course of disease. This might raise the potential of being able to detect disease recurrence much earlier than current clinical practice.” The presence of HPV infection does not mean the patient has cancer, and in most cases the body clears the infection.

The new test detects an antibody that is only produced when an infection had led to increased cell growth. Previously, no test had been able to discriminate an HPV infection from actual HPV-induced malignancy.

The study demonstrated a sensitivity of 90–95% for anal and oropharyngeal cancers and a specificity of 99.3% − performance characteristics that are diagnostically significant compared to existing methods for the early detection of HPV-induced cancers. Scientists see this as a promising biomarker test, not only for the early diagnosis of HPV-related cancers but for monitoring a patient’s response to therapy and as an early warning that the disease has returned. Dr Ralf Hilfrich, founder of Abviris and the creator of the DRH1

blood-based HPV tumour marker, said: “While HPV infection does not indicate cancer, scientists have suspected for some time that if antibodies were to develop, there may be a link to cancer. Being able to detect that early enough

could have a major impact on patient outcomes. “The test’s specificity has enabled scientists to show that rising levels of HPV antibodies in blood do reflect malignancy. The study also indicates that it may prove diagnostically significant, compared to current detection methods, when a biopsy is hard to access, or where the site of the primary cancer is unknown or unidentifiable, such as very early metastasis.”

Notwithstanding the success of the Papanicolaou smear and the vaccine against cervical cancer, HPV-induced cancers remain a global health burden, with an estimated seven billion unprotected people at risk and about 400,000 deaths annually.

Next-generation sequencing cancer panel expanded

Oxford Gene Technology (OGT), a Sysmex Group company, has announced the expansion of its SureSeq range of next-generation sequencing (NGS) panels to facilitate the interrogation of genes involved in breast and ovarian cancer, and myeloid disorders.

The two new panels include a

comprehensive 70-gene myeloid panel and a seven-gene breast and ovarian cancer panel that incorporates copy number variation (CNV) detection. Both have been designed based on the most recent literature and with input from recognised cancer experts to detect key variants and so help advance cancer research. The SureSeq Pan-Myeloid panel builds upon OGT’s established position as a frontrunner in developing predesigned and customisable NGS panels for myeloid disorders. Based on the latest research,


the new panel includes 70 key genes implicated in a wide range of myeloid disorders, including acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). Facilitated by OGT’s expert bait design and complementary Interpret NGS analysis software, the SureSeq Pan-Myeloid panel provides excellent coverage uniformity to detect clinically relevant single nucleotide variants (SNVs)

and indels down to 1% variant allele frequency (VAF). The panel includes genes such as CEBPA, JAK2, CALR and MPL, as well as covering regions containing hard-to-detect structural variants such as FLT3-ITDs and KMT2A- PTDs. It provides researchers with a single NGS approach to obtain a comprehensive picture of the key genes involved in myeloid disorders. In addition to BRCA1 and BRCA2, the other new panel also targets ATM, TP53, CHEK2, PALB2 and PTEN, and is able to detect CNVs ranging from single exons to full gene deletions and duplications in these genes. For customers interested in a larger breast or ovarian cancer panel, OGT offers customisation through the SureSeq myPanel range of pre-optimised panel content, which can be added to the Breast Cancer + CNV panel.


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