New Cancer Test Announced by UK Researchers: May Save Thousands of Gay Men
November 18, 2008
A test may soon be used in early screening for anal cancer, possibly saving the lives of thousands of men for whom anal Papanicolaou testing would be inadequate, according to researchers. Some gay activists welcomed the news, saying the field has been neglected.
The rate of anal cancer in gay men is 37 cases per 100,000, about the same rate as cervical cancer among women, said Britain's Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK, groups that helped finance the study. However, the rate among HIV-positive gay men is about 75 cases per 100,000.
The test screens for MCMs, or minichromosome maintenance proteins, naturally occurring biomarkers of malignancy and premalignancy. The study included an initial 54 anal tissue samples and 235 anal cytology samples from an independent prospective cohort study involving 144 subjects. In their analysis, the researchers concluded, "MCMs are promising biomarkers for improving detection of [anal intraepithelial neoplasia] and [squamous cell carcinoma] in anal cytology samples."
"Anal cancer is a difficult disease to detect, and many cases are identified after it becomes too late for people to undergo simple surgery to remove it," said study leader Dr. Nick Coleman. "We wanted to create a test which was easier to perform and had a high rate of accuracy. This study suggests that MCM testing fits the bill very well indeed," he said, adding that earlier detection means "fewer people would have to undergo the rigors of radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment."
"Two decades ago, I deduced that if the human papillomavirus causes cervical cancer in women, it must also have the potential to cause anal cancer in people who have anal sex, especially gay and bisexual men," said British gay activist Peter Tatchell, who added he had long lobbied the UK government "to take action but was constantly rebuffed."
The report, "Improved Screening for Anal Neoplasia by Immunocytochemical Detection of Minichromosome Maintenance Proteins," was published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (2008;17(10):2855-2864).
Edge News (Boston)
11.05.2008; Kilian Melloy