Research uncovers clues to virus-cancer link

June 17, 2009

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - In a series of recently-published articles, a research team from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center has uncovered clues to the development of cancers in AIDS patients.

In an April article published in the journal PLoS Pathogens, Dirk Dittmer, Ph.D. associate professor of microbiology and immunology at UNC's School of Medicine, demonstrated that the Kaposi sarcoma associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is not only present in every tumor cell, but that the cells also transcribe microRNAs (miRNA) from the virus. This represents a collaborative effort between UNC researchers and clinicians at Beth Israel Hospital, the University of Miami and the Federal University in Bahia, Brazil.

MicroRNAs are small molecules that regulate gene expression. Scientists have hypothesized that viruses can cause cancer through a mechanism where the viral genes take over the cell and induce cancerous growth through alteration of cell miRNA, since certain kinds of miRNA are responsible for putting the 'brakes' on uncontrolled cell growth.

Dittmer's team examined samples of tissue provided with the consent of Kaposi's sarcoma patients and found that specific miRNA biomarkers accurately identify stages of tumor progression. They found that certain miRNAs were lost as the tumors progressed, effectively accelerating the cancer's growth. More aggressive tumor stages expressed higher levels of KSHV miRNA.

In second study, published June 4 in the journal Blood, the team looked for the presence of tumor suppressor mRNAs in primary effusion lymphoma and Kaposi's Sarcoma.

"We chose these two cancers because, while they are both associated with the same virus, they occur in very different types of cells," Dittmer noted.

His team found that several miRNAs known to suppress tumor activity were significantly less active in both types of cancer.

"Micro RNAs are an exciting new class of cancer markers. Knowing which ones are present in a particular tumor will help us understand the biology and develop those micro RNAs as novel cancer therapy targets.:"

Scientists believe that finding the mechanisms through which viruses take over cellular systems, resulting in cancer, is a promising strategy for cancer prevention and treatment, since it is much more feasible to block viral infection or develop specific inhibitors of the viral genes than try to inhibit all of the genetic changes within a cancer.
-end-
This work was supported by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation, the University Cancer Research Fund, the AIDS Malignancies Clinical Trials Consortium and the National Institutes of Health.

University of North Carolina Health Care

Related Cancer Articles from Brightsurf:

New blood cancer treatment works by selectively interfering with cancer cell signalling
University of Alberta scientists have identified the mechanism of action behind a new type of precision cancer drug for blood cancers that is set for human trials, according to research published in Nature Communications.

UCI researchers uncover cancer cell vulnerabilities; may lead to better cancer therapies
A new University of California, Irvine-led study reveals a protein responsible for genetic changes resulting in a variety of cancers, may also be the key to more effective, targeted cancer therapy.

Breast cancer treatment costs highest among young women with metastic cancer
In a fight for their lives, young women, age 18-44, spend double the amount of older women to survive metastatic breast cancer, according to a large statewide study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Cancer mortality continues steady decline, driven by progress against lung cancer
The cancer death rate declined by 29% from 1991 to 2017, including a 2.2% drop from 2016 to 2017, the largest single-year drop in cancer mortality ever reported.

Stress in cervical cancer patients associated with higher risk of cancer-specific mortality
Psychological stress was associated with a higher risk of cancer-specific mortality in women diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Cancer-sniffing dogs 97% accurate in identifying lung cancer, according to study in JAOA
The next step will be to further fractionate the samples based on chemical and physical properties, presenting them back to the dogs until the specific biomarkers for each cancer are identified.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers identify one way T cell function may fail in cancer
Moffitt Cancer Center researchers have discovered a mechanism by which one type of immune cell, CD8+ T cells, can become dysfunctional, impeding its ability to seek and kill cancer cells.

More cancer survivors, fewer cancer specialists point to challenge in meeting care needs
An aging population, a growing number of cancer survivors, and a projected shortage of cancer care providers will result in a challenge in delivering the care for cancer survivors in the United States if systemic changes are not made.

New cancer vaccine platform a potential tool for efficacious targeted cancer therapy
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have discovered a solution in the form of a cancer vaccine platform for improving the efficacy of oncolytic viruses used in cancer treatment.

American Cancer Society outlines blueprint for cancer control in the 21st century
The American Cancer Society is outlining its vision for cancer control in the decades ahead in a series of articles that forms the basis of a national cancer control plan.

Read More: Cancer News and Cancer Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.