The Silent Warning — Cervical Cancer

The iGEM KUAS Seoul team consists of ambitious students from Korea University and Yonsei University pursuing expertise in various fields related to biological and chemical sciences.

The team paid attention to simple diagnosis kits, under the team members’ unanimous goal to encourage the community to take the initiative to make a better community through science, especially Synthetic Biology.

You can find a more comprehensive and detailed summary of our project on the description page.


Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that occurs in the cervical cell lining, which mostly occurs due to persistent infection caused by the sexually transmitted humanpapilloma virus (HPV). Cervical cancer ranks as the fourth most frequently detected cancer in women worldwide, with a particularly high incidence in countries with lower- and moderate-income levels [1]. The prognosis of cervical cancer depends on several factors including the different stages of cancer, cancer type, age, and underlying health conditions [2]. However, in developing nations, the weight of cancer is amplified by delayed diagnoses, the discovery of cancer at advanced stages of HIV and HPV infections, limited or inaccessible treatment options, insufficient healthcare facilities, and a combination of logistical and cultural obstacles that contribute to unfavorable treatment outcomes.

The Economic Burden

The contrast in the occurrence and fatality rates of cervical cancer between more developed and less developed countries has become more evident over time. Successful primary and secondary prevention initiatives, along with efficient early-stage invasive cancer treatments, have significantly alleviated the cervical cancer burden in the developed countries. Currently, 85% of cervical cancer-related deaths are concentrated in low-and middle-income countries [3][4]. Based on the comparative modelling analysis on the mortality impact on conducted in 2020, expanding biennial screening and cancer treatment would result in a 34.2% decrease in mortality, preventing 300,000 deaths by the year 2030 [5]. However, preventative measures, constant screening, and provision of proper radiation and chemotherapy are difficult for those in the low-and middle-income nations. Such discrepancy can occur due to the cost burden of woman health management.

In 2017, the worldwide economic burden of cervical cancer was estimated to be approximately $682 billion, equivalent to roughly 0.015% of the total GDP between 2020 and 2050. Such result indicates that the cervical cancer ranks as the second-highest economic burden among gynecological cancers and twelfth among all cancer types — providing an outlook on the severity of the financial burden caused by cervical cancer at a macroeconomic level [6]. In addition to it, treatment costs of cervical cancer differ based on its stages. Costs attributable to stage IV (FIGO) were measured as the highest, as $8.7 million among the $19 million annual expenditures of cervical cancer, which also accounts for precancerous treatment costs. On the contrary, the cost of treatments for precancerous cervical cancer accounted for only 0.7%. Therefore, considering the costly burden of providing direct and indirect expenditures of cervical cancer at an economic level, it is important to ensure early diagnosis of cervical cancer to alleviate the financial burden [7].


Overall, the emphasis on early detection enabled the team to devise a strategy for developing a user-friendly cervical cancer testing kit, with a particular focus on facilitating early diagnosis.

Therefore, to this end, we have developed


a biosensor applicable in a sanitary pad for simple diagnosis of cervical cancer.

The aptamer LFA method as a biosensor to detect the biomarker, CEA protein was designed. Such sensing system is to be attached on the bottom layer of a sanitary pad.

A more comprehensive and detailed design of the project is on the design page.

Overall, we believe that our project can assess the potential to make an initiative to support the community in promoting equity in women health.

[1] R. Hull et. al., “Cervical cancer in low and middle-income countries” Oncology Letters, vol. 20, no. 3, Sep., pp. 2058-2074, 2020.
[2] National Cancer Institute, “Cervical Cancer Prognosis and Survival Rates,” National Cancer Institute, Apr. 27, 2023. [Online]. Available: [Accessed Oct. 8, 2023]
[3] A. LaVigne, S. Triedman, T. Randall, E. Trimble, and A. Viswanathan, “Cervical cancer in low and middle income countries: Addressing barriers to radiotherapy delivery,” Gynecology Oncology Reports, vol. 22, Nov., pp. 16-20, 2017.
[4] T. Randall and R. Ghebre, “Challenges in Prevention and Care Delivery for Women with Cervical Cancer in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Frontiers in Oncology, vol. 6, no. 160, Jun., pp. 1-7, 2016.
[5] K. Canfell, J. Kim, M. Brisson, A. Keane, K. Simms, M. Caruana, et al., “Mortality impact of achieving WHO cervical cancer elimination targets: a comparative modelling analysis in 78 low-income and lower-middle-income countries,” The Lancet, vol. 395, Feb., pp. 591-603, 2020.
[6] S. Chen, Z. Cao, K. Prettner, M. Kuhn, J. Yang, L. Jiao, Z. Wang, W. Li, P. Geldsetzer, T. Barnighausen, D. Bloom and C. Wang, “Estimates and Projections of the Global Economic Cost of 29 Cancers in 204 Countries and Territories From 2020 to 2050,” JAMA Oncology, vol. 9, Apr., pp. 465-472, 2023.
[7] C. Ngcamphalala, E. Ostensson and T. Ginindza, “The economic burden of cervical cancer in Eswatini: Societal perspective,” *********PLOS ONE,********* vol. 16, no. 4, Apr., pp. 1-15, 2021.