What’s new in vaginal cancer research and treatment?
Research is under way to find new ways to prevent and treat cancer of the vagina. There are some promising new developments.
Oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes
Scientists are learning more about how certain genes called oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes control cell growth and how changes in these genes cause normal vaginal cells to become cancerous. The ultimate goal of this research is gene therapy, which replaces the damaged genes in cancer cells with normal genes to stop the abnormal behavior of these cells. For example, scientists have learned that there’s an abnormality of chromosome 3 in many vaginal cancers. Better understanding of how this may play a role in the development of the cancer might lead to better treatment.
Gardasil, a vaccine against HPV, has been shown to reduce the risk of vaginal cancer. Cervarix, the other HPV vaccine currently available, might also reduce vaginal cancer risk, but this has not been proven.
Studies are under way to determine the best way to combine external beam therapy and brachytherapy to treat the cancer and limit damage to normal tissue.
Surgeons are developing new operations for repairing the vagina after radical surgery.
Doctors have found that vaginal cancer does respond to certain types of chemotherapy. Clinical trials will be needed to find out if combining chemotherapy with radiation therapy is better than radiation therapy alone.
Last Medical Review: 06/17/2014
Last Revised: 01/12/2015