Marty's Journey

How Does HPV Cause Cancer?

Doctors admit they're not sure how HPV causes cancer, and why it causes disease in some people and not others. But they have some clues that might stop it.


Ever since TV and radio personality Marty Griffin was diagnosed with HPV-related throat cancer in early August, his fans and supporters have wondered: how exactly does HPV or Human Papillomavirus cause cancer?

Even experts like Marty's UPMC cancer doc, Dr. Robert Ferris, admit they're not completely sure how and why HPV-related cancers develop. "We don't know why everyone is essentially exposed to HPV but in some people HPV causes a cancer," Dr. Ferris explained. But he also told us they could be close to finding some answers that could allow them to better treat HPV-related cancers in the future (refresh your browser if video doesn't show) :

Doctors know that a vaccine can protect the people from contracting HPV, and now they're using immunotherapy to try and manipulate the immune system into recognizing cancer as "bad" and attack it. Marty is in an immunotherapy clinical trial as part of his treatment plan.

"We think it's a failure of the immune system to clear the virus." Dr. Robert Ferris, Director UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
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