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CANCER UPDATE

Researchers Thursday offered new evidence that a woman's genes may influence her susceptibility to cervical cancer.

The research focuses on whether genes that help control the disease-fighting immune system influence vulnerability to the most common kind of cervical cancer, the squamous cell type.In Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, three research teams reported findings that support that idea, while another said it found no such evidence.

Some 13,500 new case of cervical cancer are expected in the United States this year. The disease is associated with infection by papilloma virus.

Last year, German researchers found that a particular immune system protein appeared unusually frequently in cervical cancer patients. That suggested that the protein's presence was associated with increased risk of cervical cancer.

The protein, called HLA-DQw3, is one variant of a protein that helps alert the immune system to the presence of intruders. It is produced under the direction of a gene, so researchers proposed a genetic connection.

The researchers, Rudolf Wank of Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich and Christoph Thomssen of the Technical University of Munich, Thursday reported new evidence for the link from a study of genetic material.

Other evidence is reported by Norwegian scientists, who found HLA-DQw3 to be unusually common in cervical cancer patients.

But British researchers said they found no statistical link between the disease and the protein.

Such a discrepancy is not unusual in such studies, researcher William Klitz of the University of California at Berkeley wrote in an accompanying editorial.

It may arise from different genetic makeups of the populations studied, different causes of cervical cancer or technical difficulties in doing such studies, he said.

A rabbit study, reported by French researchers, found evidence that the same kind of immune system genes may influence whether skin warts caused by a rabbit papilloma virus will regress or develop into cancers.