Percentage of cancers linked to viruses potentially overestimated

August 5, 2013, American Society for Microbiology

The results of a large-scale analysis of the association between DNA viruses and human malignancies suggest that many of the most common cancers are not associated with DNA viruses. The findings, published in the August 2013 issue of the Journal of Virology, challenge earlier studies suggesting as high as 40 percent of tumors are caused by viruses.

For years scientists believed viruses played a role in the development of maybe 10 to 20 percent of cancers. In 2011, scientists at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden identified potential viral links to several cancers not previously associated with viruses, including and , suggesting the real number could be as high as 40 percent. Since then, researchers have been working hard to find more associations, in part because viruses could provide targets for vaccines to prevent or cure these cancers.

To better understand the role of DNA viruses in human cancers, researchers from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston sequenced RNA from 3775 malignant tumor samples from The Cancer Genome Atlas and then applied a robust bioinformatics algorithm to survey them for the presence of viral transcripts.

Those cancers not associated with DNA viruses included , cutaneous , low and high-grade gliomas of the brain (the latter killed Senator Edward Kennedy), and adenocarcinomas of the breast, colon and rectum, lung, prostate, ovaries, kidneys, and thyroid.

The findings, says Xiaoping Su, an author on the study, suggest the estimate that 40 percent of tumors are virus-related "should be much lower."

"The search for virus associations in these malignancies has consumed the efforts of many investigators," says Su, implying that his large-scale effort will spare researchers fruitless investigations.

The study also provides the framework for understanding how viruses integrate into cancer subtypes such as hepatocellular cancer, says Su. That might make it possible to personalize treatments by targeting genes that are located within known integration sites and that might be drivers of cancer initiation and progression. A key finding was that there are specific sites where integrate into the host genome prior to initiating cancer, and that these sites are frequently located within particular host genes.

"This study highlights the importance of bioinformatics in defining the landscape of virus integration across cancer subtypes," says Su.

Explore further: Hidden strains of HPV found in 'virus-negative' genital warts

More information: www.asm.org/images/Communicati … /0713viruscancer.pdf

Related Stories

Hidden strains of HPV found in 'virus-negative' genital warts

July 11, 2013
There are 170 established HPV types. Cancerous human papillomavirus (HPV) viruses are the main cause of cervical cancer, and are found in close to 100% of cervical tumors.

Ancient viruses that function in early human development may play role in cancer

July 31, 2013
The St. Laurent Institute, a non-profit medical research institute focused on the systems biology of disease, today announced in a study published in the July edition of Genome Biology, that genetic matter, previously ignored ...

Researchers find that proteins involved in immunity potentially cause cancer

July 14, 2013
A set of proteins involved in the body's natural defenses produces a large number of mutations in human DNA, according to a study led by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. The findings suggest that these naturally ...

Researchers discover gene that suppresses herpesviruses

February 13, 2013
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) hide within the worldwide human population. While dormant in the vast majority of those infected, these active herpesviruses can develop into several ...

Pressurized virus blasts its infectious DNA into human cells

July 24, 2013
The virus that causes those painful lip blisters known as cold sores has an internal pressure eight times higher than a car tire, and uses it to literally blast its infectious DNA into human cells, scientists are reporting ...

Viruses kill pancreatic tumors in preclinical model

March 20, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- An intra-tumor injection of a virus prevented further growth of some pancreatic tumors and eradicated others in mouse models of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. However, some tumors continued growing ...

Recommended for you

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

Researchers develop swallowable test to detect pre-cancerous Barrett's esophagus

January 17, 2018
Investigators at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center have developed a simple, swallowable test for early detection of Barrett's esophagus that offers promise ...

Scientists zoom in to watch DNA code being read

January 17, 2018
Scientists have unveiled incredible images of how the DNA code is read and interpreted—revealing new detail about one of the fundamental processes of life.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.