New Virus That Causes Oral Cancer Found

World News

It has recently been discovered that human papillomavirus, or HPV,
can be a leading factor in the development of cervical cancer. But very
recent research has added a new virus to the list of viruses that cause
cancer, and this one is linked to oral cancer. Cytomegalovirus, or CMV,
is the newest virus on the list and is believed to cause cancer in the
salivary glands.

This new virus is now one of ten oncoviruses, or
cancer causing viruses. This virus was discovered to case cancer by the
Laboratory for Developmental Genetics at USC. The findings were
published in an online version of the journal of Experimental and
Molecular Pathology. This is part of a series of studies conducted by
USC researchers that are aimed at showing cytomegalovirus’ role as an
oncovirus. The virus, according to the research is capable of triggering
cancer in healthy cells as well as exploiting cells which are already
weak or susceptible into forming tumors.

The study looked at the
salivary gland tumors in humans as well as the salivary glands of
postnatal mice. The lead researcher on the study, Michael Melnick a
professor of developmental genetics in the Ostrow School of Dentistry at
USC and Co-Director of the Laboratory for Developmental Genetics,
clarified why this new study has such important implications for the
future of our health. The virus is very common in humans and can cause
severe illness and death in patients whose immune systems have been
compromised. CMV also has been known to cause birth defects if the
mother is exposed to CMV for the first time while she is pregnant. CMV
may also be a factor in the cause of cancers other than salivary gland
cancer.

Melnick had this to say: “CMV is incredibly common; most
of us likely carry it because of our exposure to it. In healthy patients
with normal immune systems, it becomes dormant and resides inactive in
the salivary glands. No one knows what reactivates it.”

This
research has given a plethora of data on the correlation of CMV with
cancer. The mice that were tested for the study were exposed to a
purified form to CMV and subsequently cancer developed. The study didn’t
just reveal that the virus is a key factor in the formation of the
cancer, but also that there is a positive correlation between the
strength of the virus in the human body and the severity of the
subsequent cancer. The study also showed how the virus acted to trigger
cancer after researchers looked at the results of their attempts to slow
the cancer’s progression. According to the research, CMV utilizes a
molecular signaling pathway in order to exploit cells into turning
cancerous.
“Typically, this pathway is only active during embryonic
growth and development,” Melnick said, “but when CMV turns it back on,
the resulting growth is a malignant tumor that supports production of
more and more of the virus.”

Other researchers on the study
include Tina Jacksoll, professor of developmental genetics and
co-director of the Laboratory for Developmental Genetics at USC, and
Parish Sedghizadeh, director of the USC center for Biofilms and
associate professor of diagnostic sciences, as well as Carl Allen from
Ohio State University.

According to Jacksoll, salivary gland
cancers are especially dangerous to humns because of their difficulty to
diagnose. They often are not found until they have reached a late
stage. Salivary gland cancers can also be detrimental to the patient’s
quality of life due to the proximity of the salivary gland to the face.
But researchers hope to use the new information gathered from this study
to develop prevention programs. They think that there is potential for
the development of prevention methods not unlike what was done for HPV
after it was found to be connected to cervical cancer.

“This could
allow us to have more rational design of drugs used to treat these
tumors,” Tina Jacksoll said. Researchers like Melnick are positive that
new information about oncoviruses will continue to emerge. He expects that viral infections will be found to be related to a plethora of seemingly unrelated health issues.

“This
should be a most fruitful area of investigation for a long time to
comePsychology Articles,” he said. “This is just the tip of the iceberg with viruses.”