OmniPathology has unveiled a new test that detects human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancer in patients more accurately than other means by using advanced fluorescence microscopy and computer-aided visual analysis.
A fluorescence in situ hybridization test (a.k.a. the FISH test) is used to map genetic material in a person’s cells. In early results, over 10 percent of people tested positive for the acquired genetic abnormalities—people who would have otherwise been left untreated without early detection. The FISH test works by detecting fluorescently labeled DNA probes bound to the TERC gene, a gene that speeds along virus replication and gives instructions for making one part of an enzyme called telomerase. From there, the FISH test is able to detect new genetic changes, such as expansion of that TERC gene, which can lead to cervical, anal, and oral squamous cell carcinoma in those living with HPV.
Researchers say the FISH test can be used for early detection of HPV-related malignant and premalignant conditions in all patients, including those at high risk for HPV, such as bisexual women, gay and bi men, transgender people, sex workers, and those living with HIV.
The FISH test is performed much like a vaginal Pap smear, a swab obtained with a brush by a gynecologist, physician, or other medical professional. It is now available at a nominal cost and covered by most health insurance plans.
HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that affects 79 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another 14 million people acquire the virus each year. In fact, HPV is so common that the CDC predicts that, without a vaccine, almost every person who is sexually active will become HPV-positive.
Nine out of 10 cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV. Unfortunately, most HPV-related conditions are slow to develop and early detection is difficult (except through cervical cancer screenings).
“HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus and without early treatment it can lead to life-threatening cancers,” says Dr. Mohammad Kamal, founder and CEO of OmniPathology.
“Our new FISH screening test bridges a gap in HPV diagnosis by its ability to accurately detect the progression of HPV virus into cancer in any patient. We hope that more ob-gyns and other physicians will take advantage of this breakthrough test and screen more patients so we can prevent HPV-related cancers.