Researchers at the Queen Mary University of London have developed a new cervical cancer test that proved to be 100% effective at detecting the cancer in a trial of 15,744 participants. The study demonstrated that the epigenetics-based test outperformed both the Pap smear and the human papilloma virus (HPV) test, as well as being more cost effective.

This is an enormous development. We’re not only astounded by how well this test detects cervical cancer, but it is the first time that anyone has proven the critical role of epigenetics in the development of a significant solid cancer using data from patients in the clinic.”

Lorincz adds that in contrast to what the majority of researchers are saying, there is a growing body of evidence that it is epigenetics rather than DNA mutations that drive a wide range of early cancers, including cervical, colon prostate and oropharyngeal. The Pap smear is the most common screening method for preventing cervical cancer, despite only being able to detect 50% of pre-cancers.

A far more accurate test involves looking for DNA from the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the primary cause of cervical cancer. However, this test only identifies whether women are infected with HPV and not the actual cancer risk.

The issue with this test is that the majority of women infected with HPV eventually clear the virus and do not go on to develop a disease. The new test significantly outperformed both the Pap smear and HPV test, detecting 100% of the invasive cervical cancers that developed during the trial. By contrast, the Pap smear only detected one-quarter of the cancers and the HPV test recognized half. 

Cervical cancers

Researcher were surprised by how well this new test can detect and predict early cervical cancers years in advance, with 100 percent of cancers identified, including adenocarcinomas, which is a type of cervical cancer that is very difficult to detect.

The researchers say that since the new test can detect high-grade cervical cancer in its early stages, implementation in the clinic would reduce the number of visits to the doctor and screening appointments while providing a cheaper way of detecting the disease.