Contraceptive Drug Effective in Preventing Cervical Cancer in Mouse Models: Study
Thu, January 27, 2022

Contraceptive Drug Effective in Preventing Cervical Cancer in Mouse Models: Study

CINs or the abnormal growth of cells in the surface of the cervix are lesions that need to be treated to prevent cervical cancer. / Photo by: dreamerb via 123rf


Medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), the active ingredient in hormonal medication or contraceptive injection under the brand name Depo-Provera, has been proven effective in preventing cervical cancer in mouse models, a new study published in the American Journal of Pathology revealed.

Authors Seunghan Baik from the University of Houston’s Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling and team wrote that cervical intraepithelial neoplasias (CINs) or the abnormal growth of cells in the surface of the cervix are lesions that need to be treated to prevent cervical cancer. Although there are available surgical procedures to remove CINs, it is still necessary to develop a noninvasive treatment. 

A Potential to Prevent Cervical Cancer and Promote Regression

This inspired the team to experiment with the human papillomavirus-transgenic mouse models. They found that cervical cancer did not develop in mice that are receiving medroxyprogesterone acetate. CIN was also not found in most mice treated with MPA. Their findings showed that the ingredient in the contraceptive drugs may also be chemoprotective—a type of drug that prevents the progression of CIN to invasive cancer and also promotes regression.

Lead researcher Sang-Hyuk Chung, Ph.D. said that they are optimistic about the result of their investigation because they used HPV transgenic mouse models that have been validated. It likewise “revealed important mechanisms of cervical cancer,” Chung added.

The use of MPA injectable suspension also encourages the easy distribution of it because it does not need special storage. It can be kept at room temperature and is also cheap. Since the ingredient has also been used in contraceptive drugs, putting it to clinical use would be easy. The researchers opined that MPA is an effective solution for cervical cancer, especially for the female population that currently has no access to human papillomavirus vaccine that is supposed to protect women against certain types of HPV that can lead to genital warts or cancer.

Risk of Using the MPA Injectable Suspension

The researchers, however, cited several studies that have shown the risk of using MPA injectable suspension. These studies said that the use of MPA may increase a woman’s risk of having breast cancer. 

The team used mouse models because mouse cervical neoplastic disease progresses in the same way cervical cancer does in women. It develops in multiple stages beginning from CIN and will lead to invasive cancer. They highlighted that cervical cancer is now the third most deadly and third most common cancer in women globally.

While the prevalence of precancerous lesions CINs is higher than cases of cervical cancer, its impact on the health of the women population has not yet been fully appreciated. The team noted that the negative impact of CINs on the psychosocial and psychological wellness of women is even as great as cervical cancer.

HPV is also a major factor in the development of precancerous lesions and cervical cancer. Notably, there are now HPV vaccines proven effective to prevent human papillomavirus infections, but some women living in under-developed countries or those who belong to low socioeconomic status in developed countries may not find human papillomavirus vaccines readily available.


There are now HPV vaccines proven effective to prevent human papillomavirus infections. / Photo by: Sherry Yates Young via 123rf


The Surgical Procedure of Removing CIN vs. Proposed Noninvasive Treatment

The group also said that the surgical procedure of removing CIN is clinically beneficial to the patient. However, it has adverse effects on their health such as increasing their risk of complications for their future pregnancies and shortening of their cervix. These are an undesirable outcome of the surgical procedure for women who are in their child-bearing years. They also underscore the importance of the findings.

Cervical Cancer Death Rate in the US

Health policy research platform Kaiser Family Foundation shared the cervical cancer death rate in the United States. Among those included in the list is Alabama with a 3.1 death rate per 100,000 women in 2017. Arizona has a 2.1 death rate, Arkansas 3.3, California 2.3, Colorado 1.9, Connecticut 1.0, Delaware 3.2, Florida 2.8, Georgia 2.1, Illinois 2.1, Indiana 2.9, Iowa 1.4, and Kansas 2.1. They also used the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Health Statistics.

In a 2018 press release by the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), it was pointed out that cancer burden has risen to 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million cancer deaths in 2018. In women, the incidence rate for breast cancer exceeds other cancers and it is followed by colorectal cancer and cervical cancer.

The World Health Organization revealed that approximately 90 percent of deaths caused by cervical cancer occurred in middle- and low-income countries. The World Cancer Research Fund, the leading authority on cancer prevention research related to physical activity, nutrition, and diet, published that Swaziland (a country in Southern Africa) had the highest cervical cancer rate in 2018. The country with the second-highest cervical cancer rate was Malawi. Every year, an estimated 223 women in the country are diagnosed with the disease and 118 die from it, separate research from biopharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb confirmed.

Routine Pap tests, vaccination, safe sex, and avoiding smoking cigarettes are some of the ways advised by gynecologic oncologists to avoid cervical cancer.