UM-St. Louis to study drugs to treat HPV

St. Louis, MO – The National Institutes of Health has awarded close to two million dollars to the University of Missouri-St. Louis to study potential drugs to treat the virus that causes cervical cancer.

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually-transmitted disease in the United States. Health officials estimate that at least half of all sexually active people will become infected with HPV at some time in their lives.

In the U.S., most people do not develop symptoms and clear the infection on their own. But for about twelve thousand women each year, HPV-infection develops into cervical cancer.

UM-St. Louis biochemistry professor James Bashkin says there is currently no effective treatment for the virus. "So to our knowledge, the compounds we're working on are the first specific HPV-antiviral compounds, especially for the cancer-causing types of HPV."

Bashkin says he and his colleagues will be studying the "mechanism of action" of the new drug candidates. "In other words, exactly how does the drug work when it gets into human cells, and what does it do to the viral DNA to cause the viral DNA to be eliminated."

Bashkin co-founded the company NanoVir, LLC, which developed the drug candidates being studied.

Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women, after breast cancer. In the U.S., about four thousand women die from cervical cancer each year.