Stanford Cancer Institute

SCI Women’s Cancer Center Innovation Awardee

October 2023

A $50,000 SCI Women's Cancer Center Innovation Award was awarded to Paul Blumenthal, MD, MPH, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, and his co-investigators Emily McClung, MD, clinical assistant professor of obstetrics & gynecology, and Michelle Khan, MD, MPH, clinical associate professor of obstetrics & gynecology, for their proposal entitled “Innovating for treatment of cervical pre-cancer: Novel use and application of trichoroacetic acid (TCA) to treat cervical dysplasia with an ultimate focus on low-resource settings.” Blumenthal researches innovative approaches to reproductive health issues and has been involved in programs promoting reproductive health services across the globe.

Cervical cancer rates have increased by 45% over the past 30 years with 90% of cases occurring in developing countries. Abnormal cell growth on the surface of the cervix, called cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), often precedes cancer, and cervical cancer development can be prevented if CIN is fully removed. Although procedures to remove CIN exist, there are obstacles to implementing them in developing countries. For example, surgical excision requires skilled surgeons and operating room environments that may not be readily available, whereas chemical ablation of CIN via application of trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is easier to implement but doesn’t always penetrate the tissue deeply enough to fully remove all pre-cancerous growth. With the support of the SCI Women's Cancer Center Innovation Award, Blumenthal plans to test a variation of the chemical ablation method to determine if it can more effectively penetrate the tissue and hence prevent cancer progression. The proposal builds on a recent innovation by Gynion, a women’s health start-up, which developed a gel formulation of TCA. In preliminary tests, Gynion found that the gel can penetrate cervical tissue more deeply than the original, water-like formulation. The current proposal will extend these studies to determine more specifically the parameters required for the gel to penetrate cervix tissue deeply enough for effective cancer prevention. If successful, this proposal can greatly enhance cervical cancer prevention in low-resource settings and elsewhere.