Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) are a family of viruses that cause a wide range of benign and malignant tumors, ranging from common skin warts to cervical cancer. Respiratory papillomas are generally benign but can become cancerous. Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis (RRP) is a disease caused by HPV that is characterized by the recurrent growth of benign tumors of the upper airway. This disease can lead to significant breathing problems, including life-threatening airway blockages that require repeated surgical intervention to prevent suffocation. The papillomas are primarily located in the larynx, but approximately 17 percent of patients will have tracheal disease and 5 percent will have papillomas of the bronchus and lung parenchyma. We are conducting a number of studies to better understand RRP, and to develop better therapies for the disease.
Feinstein Institute researchers are studying the role of the immune system in controlling HPV-induced diseases, activation of latent HPV infection (a state in which the virus is not active), and the effect of HPV on cell signaling, which contributes to disease. These efforts have culminated in a clinical trial of a new treatment for RRP.