Human cytomegalovirus may be involved in colorectal cancer

November 14, 2002

Preliminary findings of a study in this week's issue of THE LANCET suggest that a common human virus may play a part in the cellular processes involved in the development of colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the second most frequent cause of death from cancer in many developed countries; most tumours arise sporadically with no clear cause or genetic predisposition. Human cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a widespread virus that is not usually associated with illness among people with a healthy immune response. Laboratory studies have shown that CMV can disrupt cellular processes with the potential to promote malignant growth, particularly affecting colorectal cancer-cell development. Charles S Cobbs from the Birmingham VA Medical Center and University of Alabama, Birmingham, USA, and colleagues assessed whether gene products of human CMV could be detected in colorectal cancers.

Specimens of colorectal polyps, adenocarcinomas, and adjacent normal cells were obtained from 29 people. Two specific human CMV proteins were detected in around 80% of two groups of polyps and in around 85% of two groups of colorectal cancer samples.

Charles S Cobbs comments: "Human cytomegalovirus nucleic acids and proteins can be found that specifically localise to neoplastic cells in human colorectal polyps and adenocarcinomas, and virus infection can induce important oncogenic pathways in colon-cancer cells. In view of the many cellular modulatory properties of this virus, our data justify further studies to establish whether human cytomegalovirus participates in pathogenesis of colorectal cancer."
-end-
Contact: Associate Professor Charles S Cobbs MD, Departments of Surgery and Cell Biology,
University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Medical Center,
MEB 519, 1813 6th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA;
T) 205-934-1674;
F) 205-975-6088;
E) cscobbs@uabmc.edu

Bob Shepard, UAB Media Relations;
T) 205-934-8934;
E) bshep@uab.edu

Lancet

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