Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and Emory Center for AIDS Research have contributed to a new study that finds that routine screening and treating precancerous anal lesions greatly decreases the likelihood of progression to anal cancer, much like the approach to preventing cervical cancer in women.
The seven-year National Cancer Institute-funded ANCHOR study, conducted under the auspices of the AIDS Malignancy Consortium, an NCI-supported clinical trials group, was led by University of California San Francisco infectious disease expert Joel Palefsky, MD. At 25 sites across the United States, the phase 3 clinical trial tested 4446 men, women, transgender and nonbinary individuals living with HIV and at high risk for developing anal cancer.
Winship gynecologist Lisa Flowers, MD, MPH, FACOG, served as the principal investigator for the study site at Grady Health Systems. A member of Winship’s Discovery and Developmental Therapeutics program, professor in the Department of Gynecology & Obstetrics at the Emory University School of Medicine, director of colposcopy and anoscopy services at Grady Cancer Center and president of the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, Flowers says the critical question the study answered is that there is a benefit to screening and treating precancerous lesions.
While the trial found that treating anal cancer precursor lesions reduces cancer risk for people with HIV, Flowers states that there are still more questions to answer in additional studies.
“We need more data and information to figure out what will be the best tools to identify patients who are at high risk and who should have anoscopy and receive treatment,” she says.
The Anal Cancer/HSIL Outcomes Research (ANCHOR) study was published June 16, 2022, in the New England Journal of Medicine.