About HPV Horizon

Lea Sistonen’s and John Eriksson’s research team at Åbo Akademi University has been awarded 968 000 euros for a project that aims at eliminating cancer types caused by the human papillomavirus.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the viruses that most of us are exposed to during our lifetime. HPV infection is the most important risk factor for cervical cancer and 90% of all cervical cancers are the result of HPV infections. HPV is also increasingly causing other types of cancer, such as cancer of the mouth and throat region, and HPVs are also causing various types of warts or papillomas.

Although HPVs have a vast negative health impact in terms of the emergence of various types of tumors, there is currently no cure available for the treatment of HPV infections or the diseases these infections cause.   Although national vaccination programs in developed countries have reduced the spread of HPV and reduced the incidence of cancer in some target groups, HPV-positive cancers will continue to be a major problem, especially as there are currently no drugs available to treat them when cancer development has begun.

“In our recent studies, our research team has found a completely new way to eliminate HPV-infected cells and thus prevent the development of cancers caused by HPV. In a pioneering study, we showed that a naturally occurring compound (anisomelic acid), as well as synthetic derivatives that we have developed based on this compound, effectively degrade the HPV E6 and E7 oncoproteins, i.e., the carcinogenic proteins in the virus that are known to play a key role in promoting the development of HVP-positive cancers.”

John Eriksson, Cell Biology Professor at Åbo Akademi University. 

“In addition to this, our research group has found a mechanism that significantly reduces the stress tolerance of cancer cells and thus their viability, based on the cellular defense mechanisms that are responsible for regulating gene expression in stressful conditions. In this project, funded by the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation, we use our previous findings to develop a small molecule-based combination therapy that specifically eliminates the cancer-promoting mechanisms mentioned above. The main goal of the project is to find new therapeutic measures to specifically eliminate tumors caused by HPV infection.”

Lea Sistonen, Cell Biology Professor at Åbo Akademi University.