Anogenital Cancers

Anogenital cancers are a group of human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers which include anal, cervical, penile, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. The Anogenital Cancers Program is a multi-disciplinary clinical and research team that employs the most advanced treatment approaches based on the latest research findings. Patients are seen at the University of Washington Medical Center.

Our team of researchers has expertise in a wide range of fields from basic science and medicine, to global health and epidemiology and are working to improve prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment for anogenital cancers. The program is interinstitutional bringing together doctors and investigators from Fred Hutch, UW Medicine and the University of Washington, Seattle Children’s, and PATH.

Program Strengths

Members of the anogenital cancer program have been involved in many aspects of research from prevention to understanding of how human papillomavirus (HPV) infection leads to cancer. Our researchers are working to understand the interaction of HPV with the environment in our bodies and how this impacts progression from infection to cancer. This includes novel work examining the role of the gut, oral, and reproductive tract microbiome (communities of bacteria that live inside our bodies) and how they can influence susceptibility to and progression of diseases including anogenital cancers.

Investigators study the mechanisms by which HPV infection contributes to cancer, with an emphasis on types most likely to progress to cervical cancer. They work to understand the natural history of genital HPV infections and why only a small subset of women infected with high-risk HPV strains develop cancer.

HPV Vaccine & Early Detection

In 2005, when the breakthrough HPV vaccines were introduced, the work was linked back to research done in Dr. Denise Galloway’s lab (the STTR Deputy Director for the Anogenital cancers program) in addition to work done in Australia and at NIH. Dr. Galloway’s work was some of the first evidence linking papilloma viruses and cancer. Read more in the Fred Hutch article here.

Investigators and doctors in this program work world-wide to prevent HPV-related cancers and improve early detection techniques. Tools for early detection which can be scalable and used in locations without access to high-tech medical equipment are hugely important for preventing cervical cancer with 528,000 new cases each year globally (GLOBOCAN 2012). Investigators at PATH are developing methods like visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) which can be used anywhere to detect lesions on the cervix when cancer is still preventable.

Dr. Denise Galloway
STTR Anogenital Cancers Deputy Director

Dr. Galloway is interested in the mechanisms by which human papillomaviruses (HPVs) contribute to epithelial cancers. Most of her research has focused on oncogenes within HPV types that have a high risk of progression to cervical cancers, such as HPV 16. The Galloway lab has had long-standing collaborations with epidemiologists and clinicians to understand the natural history of genital HPV infections, and the risk factors that cause only a small subset of women infected with high risk HPVs to progress to cancer. 

Learn more at the Galloway Lab