New cervical cancer treatment research happening at Virginia Tech, UVA

Clinical trials are expected to start in 2020

By Jenna Zibton - Anchor

BLACKSBURG - Thousands of women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year. A partnership between two universities in Virginia maybe the key to the next cervical cancer treatment.

"I think a lot of students don't get this opportunity," said Emily Wilts, a VT graduate research assistant.

The research is a partnership between Virginia Tech, where work is done in the lab, and the University of Virginia Cancer Center, where patients come for treatment.

"Right now, when you're treating gynecological cancers or cervical cancer you're introducing packing material to help protect healthy tissue around the tumor. The problem with that is it's very uncomfortable, often requires anesthesia. There's a lot of anxiety for someone who has to go to the outpatient clinic to receive that treatment," said Tim Long, director of VT Macro Molecules Innovation Institute, who is overseeing the research at Tech.

He said this new gel does the same thing but makes the procedure much easier.

"What we hope it means is that the treatments will be less expensive, easier to access, more comfortable, less anxiety ridden and people will benefit from the technology that we have in all types of communities around the country and around the world," said Long, who added some scientists work their whole lives and never have a chance to make this much of a difference.

"It is what I think the modern-day university is all about. How do we take laboratory discoveries, innovate them and commercialize them to help society? I think that's definitely possible today in a relationship like this," said Long.

For students like Wilts, cutting edge research is rewarding.

"For me, it pushes me everyday. It really is an inspiration when I wake up that hopefully at one point I'll be changing someone's life," said Wilts.

The next step for the cervical cancer treatment gel is clinical trials, which they hope will happen next year in Charlottesville. Once that's done, it could be used to treat other things like prostate cancer.

 

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