Years of medical advancements have made it possible to live long, full lives with HIV. Unfortunately, longer lifespans can also mean more health challenges. In particular, anal cancer rates are rising among people infected with HIV. Researchers are looking for better ways to prevent and treat anal cancer in the HIV-positive population, and Fenway is excited to be a part of this groundbreaking research.
The Fenway Institute is now serving as a study site for the Anchor Study, a first of its kind exploration of the effectiveness of standard anal cancer treatments in HIV-positive people. The primary objective of the Anchor Study is to determine whether treating anal high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (HSIL) is effective in reducing the incidence of anal cancer in HIV-infected individuals. Nationally, the study will look at 5,000 people over the course of five years.
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“The goal of the study is to see if the ways we are currently preventing anal cancer are working,” said Dr. Lori Panther, Associate Medical Director for Clinical Research at The Fenway Institute and a lead investigator on the Anchor Study. “The way we are treating precancerous areas in the anus is the same way we have been treating these areas in the cervix since the 1950s, but there has never been a controlled study on the effectiveness of this treatment on cervical cancer. Now in 2015, we can apply the scientific rigor to study this treatment of anal cancer in a way that cervical cancer never got.”
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Anal cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Most adults will come into contact with HPV sometime during their sexual history and suffer no effects. However, people who have compromised immune systems due to HIV or other conditions are more susceptible to illnesses associated with HPV, including cancer.
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“We want to make sure that our HIV-positive populations are being treated well, and faithfully,” said Dr. Panther. “This particular area of cancer prevention is in need of more evidence-based data.”
The Fenway Institute is currently recruiting HIV-positive adults age 35 and older for this study. In order to be eligible, participants must have no history of anal cancer, or treatment or removal of HSIL.
Potential participants will be screened for pre-cancerous anal lesions. If such lesions are found, participants will be enrolled into the study and randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first study group will have lesions treated through a series of interventions chosen by participants and the study providers. The second group will not be treated, but will be monitored every six months. Participants in both groups will be followed by the study team for a minimum of five years. Compensation for the initial screening visit is $100.
For enrollment in or more information on the Anchor Study, please call 617.927.6450.
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