AIIMS Launches Multi-Centre Study to Develop Low-Cost HPV Tests

Cervical cancer ranks second in frequency of malignancy among Indian women, after breast cancer.
The goal of this multi-center study is to revolutionize cervical cancer screening by making it more affordable and accessible. (Representational image: Wikimedia commons)
The goal of this multi-center study is to revolutionize cervical cancer screening by making it more affordable and accessible. (Representational image: Wikimedia commons)

AIIMS Delhi has initiated an innovative initiative to develop and test low-cost, point-of-care HPV tests for the early identification of cervical cancer, which is a major step in the fight against cervical cancer. The goal of this multi-center study is to revolutionize cervical cancer screening by making it more affordable and accessible for millions of women, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). It is funded by DBT-BIRAC Grand Challenges India and is being conducted in partnership with WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Cervical cancer ranks second in frequency of malignancy among Indian women, after breast cancer. It ranks as the fourth most prevalent cancer in women globally. The fact that a woman dies from cervical cancer every two minutes highlights the critical need for efficient screening and preventive programs.

Led by Prof. Neerja Bhatla, the study will assess the efficacy of indigenous HPV screening test kits across multiple study centers, including AIIMS Delhi, the National Institute of Cancer Prevention Research in Noida, and the National Institute for Research in Reproductive and Child Health in Mumbai. By validating these kits against international quality standards, the project aims to pave the way for their widespread adoption, thereby facilitating the early detection and treatment of cervical cancer.

Once validated across samples, the test kit can be rolled out for early detection at cheaper prices.
Prof Neerja Bhatla, Lead Study Investigator
The current HPV tests are prohibitively expensive and necessitate complex laboratory equipment. (Representational image: Wikimedia commons)
The current HPV tests are prohibitively expensive and necessitate complex laboratory equipment. (Representational image: Wikimedia commons)

1,200 French samples from the WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) biorepository will be tested as part of the validation investigations. These HPV test kits should be less expensive than current choices, which normally cost between Rs. 1,500 and Rs. 3,000, once they have been verified. Cervical cancer screening will become more accessible and cheaper as a result of this cost reduction, especially in environments with limited resources.

A scientist from ICMR who participated in the study, Dr. Showket Hussain, asserts that low-cost HPV tests must be developed and validated immediately, particularly for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) like India, where the incidence of cervical cancer is disproportionately high. The current HPV tests are prohibitively expensive and necessitate complex laboratory equipment, which makes them difficult to widely adopt in environments with low resources.

There is an urgent need to develop and validate low-cost, point-of-care indigenous HPV tests.
Dr Showket Hussain, Scientist at ICMR

The World Health Organization (WHO) has established challenging goals to eradicate cervical cancer by 2030, which include immunizing 90% of girls and screening 70% of women. In order to meet these goals, screening instruments that are accessible and affordable like inexpensive HPV tests must be developed and validated. Countries can reduce the burden of cervical cancer on public health systems by improving their ability for early diagnosis and treatment of the disease by integrating HPV testing into national cancer control programs.

In summary, the development of low-cost HPV tests by AIIMS Delhi represents a significant advancement in the global fight against cervical cancer. This initiative has the potential to revolutionize cervical cancer screening and prevention efforts, potentially saving countless lives by utilizing both local innovation and worldwide collaboration.

(Input from various resources)

(Rehash/Susmita Bhandary/MSM)

The goal of this multi-center study is to revolutionize cervical cancer screening by making it more affordable and accessible. (Representational image: Wikimedia commons)
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