A new HPV primary screening pilot study was launched in September in partnership with CervicalCheck, the National Cervical Screening Programme. The study researchers are aiming to enrol 15,000 women who are attending primary healthcare/GP practices across Ireland, for their regular CervicalCheck smear test – recruitment for the study is currently underway and the study will run for up to 10 years.
HPV (human papillomavirus; the virus that causes cervical cell abnormalities and cervical cancer) testing has many benefits over the traditional cytology based smear test. HPV testing can detect more cervical abnormalities than the smear test can. Additionally, it will be an important test for women who have received the HPV vaccine (offered free to young girls) when they reach screening age (≥25 yrs) as abnormalities on the smear test will be harder to find. HPV testing is already in use in colposcopy clinics and in the community to help manage women who have cervical abnormalities and require follow-up. It is likely to replace the smear test as the primary cervical cancer screening tool in the future with countries like Australia and The Netherlands implementing primary HPV testing within their national cervical screening programs in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
In Ireland, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is currently examining the clinical benefits and cost-effectiveness of switching from cytology based screening to primary HPV testing and will publish a report on its findings.
The CERVIVA HPV Primary Screening Pilot study will compare various methods (including cytology, HPV genotyping, HPV mRNA and biomarker testing) to triage women with HPV positive results in the context of primary screening. It will also look at the cost effectiveness of the various triage tests to determine the optimal solution for Irish women.