HPV stands for human papillomavirus. While HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, most infections are relatively harmless. Often, people infected with HPV don’t even know they have it. However, certain high risk types of HPV are known to cause 95% of cervical cancer cases. There is currently a vaccine to prevent infections of high risk HPV type strains. Please contact your family doctor if you are interested in getting this vaccine.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women worldwide, with more than half a million women receiving a diagnosis each year. Over 200 types of HPV are known, and at least 15 of them put women at a high risk for developing cervical cancer through infections in the genital tract, and are considered 'high risk strains'.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and most sexually active people will contract it—male or female. Usually, the immune system clears HPV, and an infected person has no symptoms. Some infections will lead to genital warts, but are caused by strains of HPV that don’t lead to cancer.
In 2020, an estimated 1,350 Canadian women were diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 410 died. While vaccination against HPV can be highly effective at preventing cervical cancer, few people are vaccinated. Unfortunately, the longer that HPV persists in the genital tract, the higher the risk of cervical cancer.
A Pap test identifies abnormal cells on the cervix, and sometimes these cells progress to cervical cancer. The reason why is not fully understood, but we know that the immune system and environmental factors contribute to cancer progression
The composition of the microbiome influences how the body responds to infection, such as through inflammation. Certain types of microbes could protect against HPV infection, persistence and clearance, while others may increase the risk of cervical cancer.
The link between the vaginal microbiome, inflammation, and cervical cancer progression is an open question that we aim to answer in this study. Understanding how the microbiome impacts cervical cancer could lead to better treatments and preventative therapies.
We are currently recruiting women between the ages of 18 and 55, who have had an abnormal Pap test and able to answer questions and submit biological samples for up to three years.