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Mod Pathol. 2000 Mar;13(3):243-51.

Contemporary theories of cervical carcinogenesis: the virus, the host, and the stem cell.

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Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Cervical cancer is a complex disease that, by its association with human papillomavirus (HPV), has elicited research in a broad range of areas pertaining to its basic diagnostic and clinical aspects. The complexity of this association lies not only in the fundamental relationship between virus and cancer but also in its translation to pathologic diagnosis and clinical management. Offshoots from the relationship of virus to pathology include studies targeting the link between papillomavirus infection and cervical epithelial abnormalities, the molecular epidemiology of papillomavirus infection, and the potential use of HPV testing as either a screening technique or a tool for managing women who have Pap smear abnormalities. A second variable that is critical to the pathogenesis of cervical neoplasia is the cervical transformation zone. The wide range of invasive and noninvasive lesion phenotypes associated with HPV infection in this region indicate that not only the virus but also specific host target epithelial cells in the transformation zone play an important part in the development of cervical neoplasia. Further understanding of this relationship between the virus and the host epithelium will hinge on determining the subtypes of epithelial cells in the transformation zone and their phenotypic response to infection. New technologies, such as expression arrays, promise to clarify, if not resolve, the complexity of molecular interactions leading to the multiplicity of tumor phenotypes associated with HPV infection of the uterine cervix.

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