Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are small DNA viruses; some oncogenic ones can cause different types of cancer, in particular cervical cancer. HPV-associated carcinogenesis provides a classical model system for RNA interference (RNAi) based cancer therapies, because the viral oncogenes E6 and E7 that cause cervical cancer are expressed only in cancerous cells. Previous studies on the development of therapeutic RNAi facilitated the advancement of therapeutic siRNAs and demonstrated its versatility by siRNA-mediated depletion of single or multiple cellular/viral targets. Sequence-specific gene silencing using RNAi shows promise as a novel therapeutic approach for the treatment of a variety of diseases that currently lack effective treatments. However, siRNA-based targeting requires further validation of its efficacy in vitro
and in vivo
, for its potential off-target effects, and of the design of conventional therapies to be used in combination with siRNAs and their drug delivery vehicles. In this review we discuss what is currently known about HPV-associated carcinogenesis and the potential for combining siRNA with other treatment strategies for the development of future therapies. Finally, we present our assessment of the most promising path to the development of RNAi therapeutic strategies for clinical settings.
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