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Advances in Treating Vulvar Cancer

Researchers are currently exploring new ways to prevent and treat vulvar cancer. Scientists are learning how certain genes control cell growth and how changes in these genes cause normal vulvar cells to become cancerous. These special genes are called oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes. The goal of this research is to develop gene therapy for replacing damaged genes in cancer cells with normal genes. This may help to stop the abnormal behavior of these cells.

Researchers are also working on vaccines to prevent and treat vulvar and cervical cancer. There are two human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines (Gardasil and Cervarix) now available to help prevent HPV infection. This virus makes women more likely to develop certain types of cancer, including vulvar cancer. Researchers are also testing the use of vaccines in women with established HPV infections. These vaccines may help their immune systems destroy the virus and cure or prevent the infection before cancer develops. Other vaccines are being developed for women who have recurrent cancer (cancer that has come back after treatment) or cancer that has spread. The goal of these vaccines is to produce an immune reaction that would keep the virus from helping the cancer cells grow.

Researchers are also conducting clinical trials to learn how surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy can be combined for the best treatment of vulvar cancer. Certain drugs called targeted therapies are also being studied.