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Virus DNA found in cancer cells

Published on 06/02/20 at 12:45pm

The first comprehensive survey of viruses found with different types of cancer has been conducted by researchers.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia discovered traces of viruses in 13% of the samples studied and also further identified some of the mechanisms that viruses use to trigger carcinogenic mutations. These findings come after University of East Anglia scientists pioneered a new way of finding the bacteria and viruses associated with cancer.

Dr Daniel Brewer from UEA’s Norwich Medical School and a Visiting Worker at the Earlham Institute (EI), said: “We already knew of some strong associations between infections and cancer. For example, the presence of Helicobacter pylori in the digestive tract can lead to stomach ulcers and is associated with stomach cancer. When tumour samples are whole genome sequenced, DNA from any pathogens present are also sequenced, making it possible to detect and quantify viruses.

“This has given us a fantastic opportunity to collect data to find new associations between viruses and different types of cancer. This is the first time that a systematic study of the majority of cancer types for viruses has been made. It is important because finding new links between infection and cancer types has the potential to provide vaccines, such as the HPV vaccine, which could reduce the global impact of cancer.”

The team discovered traces of 23 different virus types in 356 cancer patients. And as expected, the known viral drivers of tumour initiation and growth were the most common.

Conor Kavanagh


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