HPV Research Group

The HPV Research Group is comprised of a variety of researchers from several institutions in Western Washington and Senegal, Africa that include the University of Washington, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the University of Dakar.

Over the last 15 years, the HPV research group has conducted a variety of studies focused on HPV and HPV related cancers. These have included studies describing the epidemiology and natural history of HPV and its role in the development of cervical cancer in a variety of different populations, including subjects with and without human immunodeficiency virus infection or other sexually transmitted infections. Our studies have examined novel approaches to detection and treatment of women with cervical cancer and cervical cancer precursor lesions in both developed countries and in resource poor settings. Our studies are currently focusing on strategies to detect women at risk for cervical cancer, including the use of assays to detect HPV and specific HPV variants, as well as assays to detect specific genes associated with lesions or lesion severity (based on the presence of over-expressed proteins or hypermethylated genes). We are also currently assessing the relationship between infections with non-genital (cutaneous) HPVs and squamous cell cancer.

Other studies being conducted by investigators of the HPV Research Group concern the development and translation of research findings into procedures appropriate for use in resource-poor settings. These studies include comparison of the immune response of HIV-1 as compared to HIV-2 which will help identify epitopes that may be important for HIV vaccine development, and the evaluation of potential biomarkers that may serve as the basis for assays of use in the early detection and treatment of women with breast cancer.

HPV and Epithelial Malignancy
Human papillomaviruses are small, double-stranded DNA viruses, which infect stratified squamous or endocervical glandular epithelium, where they stimulate epithelial proliferation. At present, over 100 different human papillomavirus (HPV) types have thus far been identified, but many more likely exist. These viruses are classified biologically (and phylogenetically) into cutaneous or mucosal types depending on whether they generally infect keratinizing or non-keratinizing epithelium. (Formal classification of individual genotypes is based on the sequence homology in the L1 region of the genome.) There is a great deal of interest in HPVs because of their central role in the development of many squamous epithelial cancers. Over the last several years, detection of specific types of HPV has been integrated into cervical cancer control efforts.