Cancer-causing virus blocks human immune response

As we have seen elsewhere in this blog, immune deficiency is a key element in carcinogenesis.  In this perspective, scientists at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of California at San Francisco have revealed how a type of cancer-causing virus outsmarts the human body’s immune response. The discovery might help explain why some cancer therapies fail to treat certain cancers and might lead to more effective treatments.

Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), a virus of the herpes family, causes an estimated 200,000 cancers every year, including lymphomas, nasopharyngeal cancers and some stomach cancers. Better anti-viral drugs could help thousands of people suffering from these cancers.

Many viruses, including EBV, carry small molecules called microRNAs that they use to hijack natural processes in a host’s cells during an infection. Viral microRNAs are known to prevent host cell death, promote host cell growth and dampen the host cell’s viral defenses. However, scientists don’t yet know which viral microRNAs perform which functions.

Jennifer Cox, a graduate student working with Associate Professor Chris Sullivan at UT Austin, identified microRNAs made by several herpes viruses that block a component of a human’s innate immune system called the interferon response. Immune cells within the body release interferon to prevent viral replication, and this often results in slower growth or death of infected host cells. The researchers found that several herpes viruses have independently evolved similar mechanisms to block the host’s interferon response.

“I was actually surprised that all these different viruses had converged on the same mechanism for blocking the body’s defenses,” said Sullivan. “As a biologist, this is evolutionary gold.”

Interferon is sometimes used in combination with chemotherapy to treat lymphomas. While an effective treatment for some cancers, it does not significantly affect others. This latest research has demonstrated that EBV lymphoma cells are less susceptible to interferon therapy.

“This could explain the variability seen in the success of previous interferon-based cancer treatments,” said Cox. “While this work does not immediately identify new drugs, the fact that such different tumor viruses have converged on the same strategy makes this an exciting pursuit for future therapies against viral cancers.”

Source: Pan-viral-microRNA screening identifies interferon inhibition as a common function of diverse viruses, PNAS, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1417891112

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2014-5 Copyright. All rights reserved. Christian Joubert. But you are free to share this article as long as the attribution mentions the author, this blog and its Facebook fan page.
Disclaimer. This is an educational blog and nothing therein shall be construed to be medical or legal advise.

Holistic Oncology Movie’s Founder, Christian Joubert has worked as a professor of public law and holistic medicine for most of his adult life, in association with his activities in organic agriculture. Christian’s has attained expertise in many fields, thanks to which he can help as many people as possible, including, but not limited to biogerontology, (ie, extending healthy human life-spans to over 120 years old), holistic oncology, traditional naturopathy (or what is also called “natural medicine”, coming from Hippocratic Tradition), French medicine, (classified by the W.H.O. as the number one out of in 191 countries, Cf. the link “about”), comparative public policy and international public law. Trained in conventional medicine, acupuncture, naturopathy, oenology, the social sciences and law in France, Christian has campaigned and litigated in Courts of law for multiple years in order to replace outdated medical standards of care with evidence-based holistic standards. His originality is based on being able to examine medicine and the health sciences with legal & forensic eyes, thanks to which he can distinguish the relevant data from the irrelevant. In addition, his broad knowledge relative to the health sciences, organic farming, ecology, eco-development, oenology (wine science), sociology, political science, the law and different cultures allows him to identify those key inter-connections that too often, most family members, medical doctors, professors of medicine and public health experts are not able to see or understand. To benefit in vivo from Christian’s trans-cultural, medical, legal and inter-disciplinary training and experience, click the Consult link in the top menu bar.

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