Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Molecular Testing for Cervical Cancer

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Author: Mary Ellen Koenn, MS, MLS(ASCP)
Reviewer: David Moffa, PhD

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a frequently occurring viral infection that is sexually transmitted. HPV infections often present with mild symptoms or are asymptomatic and do not always progress to a disease state. However, some HPV infections can cause cervical or other anogenital carcinomas. If HPV screening is done regularly, most cervical cancers can be prevented. In fact, cervical cancer is one of the most successfully treated cancers. Management of HPV has changed dramatically with the introduction of DNA methods for diagnosis of HPV infections, and vaccines for the prevention of HPV infections. This course is intended to increase your knowledge about HPV and to acquaint you with molecular methods that are currently available for detection of HPV DNA in cervical cells.

Continuing Education Credits


  • Describe human papillomavirus (HPV) structure, genome, and encoded proteins.
  • Identify high-risk and low-risk HPV types and the relationship between HPV and cervical cancer.
  • Identify the symptoms, causes, and risk factors associated with cervical cancer.
  • Describe the carcinogenesis of cervical cancer including a description of tumor suppressor genes, oncogenes, and the virulence of HPV types 16 and 18.
  • Compare and contrast the FDA-approved molecular assays for high risk HPV types.
  • Compare and contrast vaccines to prevent HPV infections.
  • Evaluate appropriate and inappropriate utilization of molecular testing for HPV DNA in cervical cancer screening.
  • Discuss basic molecular diagnostic processes: denaturation, hybridization, and types of amplification methods.
  • Describe the FDA-approved cobas HPV test for primary cervical cancer screening.
  • Summarize and contrast the latest cervical cancer screening guidelines issued by the professional organizations and discuss the use of the HPV test as a primary cervical cancer screen.

Course Outline

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
      • Introduction: HPV and Cervical Cancer
      • Organizations and Agencies
    • HPV as a Virus
      • HPV Structure
      • HPV Viral Types
      • Low-Risk and High-Risk HPV Types
      • HPV Genome and Proteins
      • Which of the following HPV types are high risk HPV types and most commonly isolated in cervical caners?
      • Select the statement that correctly describes the HPV genome and its encoded proteins.
    • HPV as a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)
      • HPV as a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)
      • Clinical Diseases Caused by HPV STI Types
      • Most genital condylomas and cervical lesions caused by HPV resolve as a result of the immune response in the infected individual.
      • Which HPV virus types do not cause cancer but can account for 90% of all genital warts?
    • Cervical Cancer and HPV Types
      • Overview of Cervical Cancer
      • Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors for Cervical Cancer
      • Staging of Cervical Cancer
      • Cervical Cancer Treatment and Prognosis
      • Cervical IntraepitheIial Neoplasia (CIN) and Immune Mediated Regression
      • Life Cycle of Human Papillomavirus
      • Review: Tumor Suppressor Genes, Proto-Oncogenes, and Oncogenes
      • Carcinogenesis of Cervical Cancer, continued
      • HPV infection can linger for years in cervical cells and eventually convert normal cells into malignant cells.
      • Which gene or genes in HPV control(s) the production of E6 and E7 in the normal viral life cycle?
    • Papanicolaou (Pap) Test and Cervical Cytology Testing
      • Overview of the Pap Smear
      • Cervical Cancer Diagnostic Procedures
      • _____________ is a diagnostic procedure that examines an illuminated, magnified view of the cervix, vagina and vulva usually when an abnormality is fo...
  • HPV Molecular Diagnostics
    • Molecular Detection of HPV
      • Molecular Detection of HPV in Cervical Cytology Specimens
    • Review: Nucleic Acids and Molecular Diagnostic Testing
      • Molecular Testing Basics
      • Hybridization
      • Amplification
      • Review the descriptions of molecular testing techniques and select the correct statements.
    • Types of Molecular HPV Testing
      • FDA-Approved HPV Tests
      • High-Risk HPV Hybrid Capture (HC) 2 DNA Test
      • Cervista HPV DNA
      • Cervista HPV DNA, continued
      • Cervista HPV DNA - Oligonucleotides
      • Comparison of Digene and Cervista HPV DNA Tests
      • Cobas HPV Test
      • Cobas HPV Test, continued
      • Should the HPV Test Be Used as a First-Line Primary Cervical Cancer Screen?
      • Should the HPV Test Be Used as a First-Line Primary Cervical Cancer Screen? (Continued).
      • Which statements are true when describing the Diagene Hybird Capture 2 High Risk HPV DNA test?
      • The FDA granted the cobas HPV test the first HPV FDA approval for expanded use of the test to include use as either a co-test or as a primary cervical...
  • Updated Guidelines for Cervical Cancer Screening
      • Updated Cervical Cancer Screening Guidelines for Pap and HPV Testing
  • Prevention of HPV
      • HPV Vaccines
  • References
    • References
      • References

Additional Information

Level of instruction: Intermediate

Intended Audience: Clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, and other health care personnel who have an interest in this subject matter. This course is also appropriate for medical laboratory science students, pathology residents, and practicing pathologists. 
Author information: Mary Ellen Koenn, MS, MLS(ASCP) is an associate professor emeritus, West Virginia University School of Medicine, Medical Laboratory Science Program. During her career as a medical technologist and educator, she has been a laboratory supervisor and manager and has held several teaching positions. She is the author of numerous articles for laboratory publications and textbook chapters and is a frequent presenter at laboratory seminars and workshops. Ms. Koenn holds a Master of Science degree in Medical Technology.
Reviewer information: David Moffa, PhD, has over 30 years of experience in the health care industry as an executive manager, clinical laboratory director, and medical laboratory scientist. He is currently a technical consultant for Kentmere Healthcare, Wilmington, DE, and until his retirement, was the Regional Director for LabCorp, Inc. He holds a PhD in medical biochemistry from the School of Medicine, West Virginia University.

Course Description: This course discusses the various types of human papillomavirus and their association with cervical cancer. Molecular methods of detection are discussed, beginning with a basic review of nucleic acid amplification methods and hybridization methods. Two FDA-approved methods for molecular HPV testing are briefly explained. The course also presents four case studies to demonstrate the correct and incorrect utilization of HPV molecular methods.

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This course is part of:
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