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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Feb 15;102(7):2490-5. Epub 2005 Feb 7.

Estrogen contributes to the onset, persistence, and malignant progression of cervical cancer in a human papillomavirus-transgenic mouse model.

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  • 1McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research, University of Wisconsin Medical School, 1400 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Cervical cancer is a leading cause of death by cancer among women worldwide. High-risk human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are the major etiological agents for cervical cancer, but other factors likely contribute to cervical cancer, because these cancers commonly arise decades after initial exposure to HPV. Estrogen is thought to be one such cofactor; however, its temporal requirements in human cervical cancer are not known. Here we evaluate the temporal requirements of estrogen in cervical carcinogenesis in a mouse model for HPV-associated cervical cancer. Tumors arising in HPV16 transgenic mice treated with estrogen for 9 months were greatly increased in their size compared with tumors developing after 6 months of estrogen treatment. HPV16 transgenic mice treated 6 months with estrogen followed by 3 months without exogenous estrogen had significantly fewer tumors and the tumors were smaller and less aggressive than those arising in mice treated the full 9 months. Importantly, cervical cancers that arose in the mice treated the first 6 of 9 months with estrogen must have regressed, based upon the reduced incidence of cancers in these mice compared with those treated for 6 months with estrogen, then immediately analyzed. We conclude that estrogen plays a critical role not only in the genesis of cervical cancer but also in its persistence and continued development in this mouse model. These findings raise the clinically relevant possibility that, if human cervical cancer has a similar dependence on estrogen for continued tumor growth, then antiestrogen therapy may be effective in the treatment of cervical cancer.

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