Despite improved screening, about 3200 women still develop cervical cancer in the UK annually, Cancer Research UK estimate. Approximately 850 women die from the malignancy each year. Now new insights into cancer biology are transforming the prospects for recurrent cervical cancer and several other malignancies in women.
Recurrent cervical cancer
Most of the 100 billion (10 million million) cells in the human body replicate their DNA as they divide. An error can be fatal for the cell or the human. Yet cells make remarkably few mistakes copying the 3 billion nucleotides (the four bases) that carry our genetic code.1
In part, that’s because checkpoint proteins keep an ‘eye’ on the cell as it divides. Checkpoints ensure, for instance, that chromosomes are undamaged, that cell division occurs in the right order and that every step is accurate.2 Sometimes cells repair any damage. If the checkpoints detect a serious error, the cell may undergo ‘programmed death’ (apoptosis).2
So, when checkpoints go wrong, the consequences can be serious. For instance, abnormalities that inhibit a checkpoint called programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) can mean the cancer avoids detection and destruction by the immune system.3