GW researchers receive $2.2 million grant to study HERV expression in cancer

November 16, 2016

WASHINGTON (Nov. 16, 2016) - George Washington University (GW) researchers received a $2.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to uncover why certain cancer types increase whereas others are unchanged or even decrease in those with HIV infection.

Douglas Nixon, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Tropical Medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), is the principal investigator on the grant. He is supported by Eduardo M. Sotomayor, M.D., director of the GW Cancer Center, which provided seed funding for this research. Nixon also collaborated with Brad Jones, Ph.D., assistant professor of microbiology, immunology, and tropical medicine at GW SMHS, Keith A. Crandall, Ph.D., director of the GW Computational Biology Institute at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at GW, and Gustavo Reyes-Terán, M.D., M.P.H., adjunct professor of microbiology, immunology, and tropical medicine at GW SMHS and head of the Department of Infectious Diseases (CIENI) at the National Institute of Respiratory Infections in Mexico City.

"While I am not primarily a cancer researcher, I believe HIV/AIDS research can provide unique insights into cancer mechanisms and biology," said Nixon. "I believe this project shows the importance of seed funding, but also of cross-disciplinary work - something GW has made a priority, allowing people from different fields to come together and talk to each other in ways many large institutions do not. I am delighted to be joining the cancer research community and to work with the GW Cancer Center."

Over the past decade, Nixon's research team has published extensively on the effect of HIV infection on the expression of human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs), remnants of ancient viruses found in today's DNA. His team has focused on the youngest of these retroviruses, HERV-K (HML-2). Research shows that HERVs also play a role in the pathogenesis of germ cell tumors, prostate and breast cancers, melanoma, and renal cell carcinoma.

Nixon's team, which includes Matthew Bendall, a student researcher in Nixon's and Crandall's labs, developed a novel computational pathway program, "Telescope," to pinpoint where HERVs are transcribed in HIV patients. To get a fuller picture, Nixon's team will use "Telescope" to determine which HERVs are expressed in prostate, breast, and colon cancers, in patients with and without HIV infection, and follow anti-HERV immune responses. Nixon and his research team hypothesize that HIV reactivation of HERVs stimulates anti-HERV immunity, which specifically recognizes HERVs also expressed in certain cancers. They also believe that these HIV-induced HERV specific immune responses target HERVs that are expressed in breast, colon, or prostate cancer.

"We are thrilled to be working with Dr. Nixon at the GW Cancer Center," said Sotomayor. "We believe this research will have major implications for cancer research, and in the future, cancer patients."
-end-
Media: To interview Dr. Nixon or learn more, please contact Lisa Anderson at lisama2@gwu.edu or 202-994-3121.

About the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences: Founded in 1824, the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) was the first medical school in the nation's capital and is the 11th oldest in the country. Working together in our nation's capital, with integrity and resolve, the GW SMHS is committed to improving the health and well-being of our local, national and global communities. smhs.gwu.edu

About the GW Cancer Center The George Washington (GW) Cancer Center is a collaboration between GW Hospital, The GW Medical Faculty Associates, and the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences to expand GW's efforts in the fight against cancer. The GW Cancer Center also partners with the Milken Institute School of Public Health at GW, and incorporates all existing cancer-related activities at GW, serving as a platform for future cancer services and research development. Learn more about the GW Cancer Center at http://www.smhs.gwu.edu/cancercenter.

About the GW Computational Biology Institute The George Washington (GW) Computational Biology Institute brings together leading faculty in medicine, biology, public health, and computing to harness biological and patient information, open new doors of discovery that have the potential to benefit millions. Learn more about the GW Computational Biology Institute at http://cbi.gwu.edu.

George Washington University

Related HIV Articles from Brightsurf:

BEAT-HIV Delaney collaboratory issues recommendations measuring persistent HIV reservoirs
Spearheaded by Wistar scientists, top worldwide HIV researchers from the BEAT-HIV Martin Delaney Collaboratory to Cure HIV-1 Infection by Combination Immunotherapy (BEAT-HIV Collaboratory) compiled the first comprehensive set of recommendations on how to best measure the size of persistent HIV reservoirs during cure-directed clinical studies.

The Lancet HIV: Study suggests a second patient has been cured of HIV
A study of the second HIV patient to undergo successful stem cell transplantation from donors with a HIV-resistant gene, finds that there was no active viral infection in the patient's blood 30 months after they stopped anti-retroviral therapy, according to a case report published in The Lancet HIV journal and presented at CROI (Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections).

Children with HIV score below HIV-negative peers in cognitive, motor function tests
Children who acquired HIV in utero or during birth or breastfeeding did not perform as well as their peers who do not have HIV on tests measuring cognitive ability, motor function and attention, according to a report published online today in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Efforts to end the HIV epidemic must not ignore people already living with HIV
Efforts to prevent new HIV transmissions in the US must be accompanied by addressing HIV-associated comorbidities to improve the health of people already living with HIV, NIH experts assert in the third of a series of JAMA commentaries.

The Lancet HIV: Severe anti-LGBT legislations associated with lower testing and awareness of HIV in African countries
This first systematic review to investigate HIV testing, treatment and viral suppression in men who have sex with men in Africa finds that among the most recent studies (conducted after 2011) only half of men have been tested for HIV in the past 12 months.

The Lancet HIV: Tenfold increase in number of adolescents on HIV treatment in South Africa since 2010, but many still untreated
A new study of more than 700,000 one to 19-year olds being treated for HIV infection suggests a ten-fold increase in the number of adolescents aged 15 to 19 receiving HIV treatment in South Africa, according to results published in The Lancet HIV journal.

Starting HIV treatment in ERs may be key to ending HIV spread worldwide
In a follow-up study conducted in South Africa, Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers say they have evidence that hospital emergency departments (EDs) worldwide may be key strategic settings for curbing the spread of HIV infections in hard-to-reach populations if the EDs jump-start treatment and case management as well as diagnosis of the disease.

NIH HIV experts prioritize research to achieve sustained ART-free HIV remission
Achieving sustained remission of HIV without life-long antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a top HIV research priority, according to a new commentary in JAMA by experts at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The Lancet HIV: PrEP implementation is associated with a rapid decline in new HIV infections
Study from Australia is the first to evaluate a population-level roll-out of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in men who have sex with men.

Researchers date 'hibernating' HIV strains, advancing BC's leadership in HIV cure research
Researchers have developed a novel way for dating 'hibernating' HIV strains, in an advancement for HIV cure research.

Read More: HIV News and HIV 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.