Approximately 5% of cancers are caused by high-risk human papillomaviruses. Although very effective preventive vaccines will reduce this cancer burden significantly over the next several decades, they have no therapeutic effect for those already infected and remaining at risk for malignant progression of hrHPV lesions. HPV-associated cancers are dependent upon the expression of the viral E6 and E7 oncogenes. The oncogenic function of hrHPV E6 relies partially on its ability to induce p53 degradation. Since p53 is generally wildtype in hrHPV-associated cancers, p53 stabilization arrests proliferation, induces apoptosis and/or results in senescence. Here we describe a live cell, image-based high-throughput screen to identify compounds that stabilize p53 and/or affect viability in HPV-positive cancer HeLa cells. We validate the robustness and potential of this screening assay by assessing the activities of approximately 6,500 known bioactive compounds, illustrating its capability to function as a platform to identify novel therapeutics for hrHPV.
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