Cervical cancer, one of the most common types of cancer affecting women, is often detected too late to be effectively treated.
Women living in poor, underdeveloped countries are particularly at risk of suffering through undetected and undiagnosed cervical cancer. As a result, researchers at Purdue University are working to develop a test strip, much like the the common pregnancy test, to help detect cervical cancer and in the future, other types of cancers and diseases.
The way that cervical cancer detection currently works is based on the human papillomavirus, or HPV, test. The method isn’t deemed 100% accurate, according to doctors, because there can be times where cancers or diseases go undetected.
The alternative test being created by researchers at Purdue aims to be both low cost and easy to use. According to Joseph Irudayaraj, Professor of biological engineering in Purdue’s School of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, “This field really needs an additional way to test for cervical cancer. A test that can report cervical cancer right away is very instrumental in a lot of low- and middle-income countries where women often get HPV tests and then never come back.”
The researchers have already begun working on a prototype of a specialized test strip with unparalleled sensitivity. The test strips work by changing the strip’s color within 15-30 minutes to indicate the presence of certain proteins that are associated with cervical cancer.
“We’re working to greatly improve the detection limit of our testing,” said Wen Ren, a Purdue postdoctoral researcher who is working with Irudayaraj. “That will make it much easier to detect cervical cancer based on a very low amount of markers in smaller samples.”
A USDA grant is helping to fund the research, but scientists are seeking corporate funding and collaboration to help advance the research being conducted.