UTHealth researchers receive $2.5 million to develop anal cancer screening protocol

Alan Nyitray B 2013
Alan Nyitray, Ph.D.

HOUSTON – The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $2.5 million grant to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) to develop a standard protocol for anal cancer screenings for men who have sex with men.

Persistent anal human papillomavirus (HPV) infection is the primary cause of anal cancer, which is a common cancer among men having sex with men. The incidence of anal cancer is approximately 5 times higher among HIV-negative men who have sex with men and 25 times higher among HIV-positive men who have sex with men, according to Alan Nyitray, Ph.D., principal investigator and assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health.

Since there is no current standard screening protocol for anal cancer, researchers will compare whether an annual screening using a home-based kit to detect HPV, rather than screening in a clinic, would be more effective at identifying people at increased risk for anal cancer.

“Cancer screening is a repeated activity. This is the first study to assess compliance with repeat anal cancer screening in these communities. It will also assess if home-based screening for anal cancer will improve compliance with anal cancer screening,” said Nyitray, who is also a member of the Center for Infectious Diseases at the School of Public Health.

UTHealth co-investigators include Vanessa Schick, Ph.D.; Michael Swartz, Ph.D.; Eric Brown, Ph.D., and Maria Fernandez, Ph.D. The Crofoot Clinic in Houston, Baylor College of Medicine and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center will also be involved in the study.

Researchers will enroll 400 participants for the five-year study. Funding for the study was provided through the NIH’s National Cancer Institute (R01CA215403).

— Written by Hannah Rhodes, Media Contact: 1-713-500-3030