A 2020 update of anal cancer: the increasing problem in women and expanding treatment landscape

Caroline Lum, Hans Prenen, Amy Body, Marissa Lam, Eva Segelov

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review


Introduction: Anal cancer is a rare malignancy with increasing incidence, notably in women. This disease is highly associated with HPV infection and its incidence and mortality are currently rising. Most patients present with localized disease which has a high survival after definitive treatment with chemoradiation. For patients who develop metastatic disease or present with this de novo, survival is poor. Areas covered: This review provides a summary of current literature on anal cancer. With a focus on women, this includes current epidemiological trends, role of HPV, and the current and future treatment landscape, including HPV vaccination and immunotherapy. Screening currently focusses on HIV-positive men, missing most female cases. In curative disease, trials are investigating treatment de-intensification in good prognostic groups. Immunotherapy is showing early promise in the advanced disease setting. Expert opinion: Similar to cervical cancer, anal cancer is strongly associated with HPV, and therefore, broader implementation of screening programs may reduce its incidence. HPV vaccination is expected to reduce the development of (pre)malignant anal lesions. The emergence of biomarkers will assist patient treatment selection, allowing optimal balance of treatment efficacy and morbidity. It is hoped that new treatment approaches, including immunotherapy, will improve outcomes. International collaboration is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)665-680
Number of pages15
JournalExpert Review of Gastroenterology & Hepatology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2 Aug 2020


  • Anal cancer
  • chemoradiation
  • HPV
  • HPV carcinogenesis
  • immunotherapy
  • screening
  • squamous cell carcinoma
  • squamous intraepithelial lesions
  • women

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