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Section of Infections

Infections and Cancer Epidemiology Group


As scientific studies of the subject continue, the spectrum of malignant diseases known or suspected to be associated with carcinogenic viruses is likely to expand, and so are the opportunities for prevention. The Infections and Cancer Epidemiology Group (ICE) has contributed and will continue to contribute to progress in these fields by means of studies on:

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) and cervical cancer prevention through HPV vaccination and HPV-based screening, with a focus on low-income countries

  • The spectrum, natural history, and prevention of infection-associated cancers other than cervical cancer

  • Statistical methods and other quantitative methods to estimate and model infection-associated cancers

ICE has been carrying out numerous international studies on the association between infection and cancer and the prevalence of cancer-associated infections at a population level. This work has enabled the accumulation of a vast biobank that includes hundreds of cancer tissue samples and thousands of samples of sera/plasma, urine, and exfoliated cells from the cervix uteri, and of the oral cavity. The value of these samples is augmented by the availability of extensive information on the corresponding study subjects (including a broad range of characteristics associated with cancer risk) and of accurate information on markers of viral or bacterial infection. The majority of this biobank is made up of samples deriving from studies of HPV in women without (>40 000 from more than 20 countries) or with cervical cancer or precancerous lesions. In large subsets of these women, testing for antibodies or DNA of other genital infections is also available.

ICE has also developed specific expertise in design issues and statistical methods to evaluate the infection—cancer link and the existence of modifying factors. Promoting HPV vaccination and cervical screening programmes for the prevention of cervical cancer is also an ICE priority. A multiyear project was recently initiated to demonstrate the early impact of vaccination against HPV in two low-resource countries that pioneered the implementation of this intervention.

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