Cancer Prevention Latest Research April -May 2009 - 2

Below are a number of articles about the effect of disease on cancer prevention that have appeared in CANCERactives icon magazine. Just click on the title to read the piece.



Scientists shown dormant virus causes cancer

Hot on the heels of the virus that can cause pancreatic cancer covered in the last edition of icon comes another that can trigger Burkitts lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This cancer affects around 200 young adults aged between 13 and 24 each year in the UK but is more common in children living in equatorial Africa. Doubtless the next step will be to develop a highly expensive vaccine and force all school children to have a shot.

The cancer is triggered by a genetic accident in cells of the immune system, called B lymphocytes. Once that accident has happened, the chances of the cancer developing are greatly increased if those same cells are infected with a common virus, called the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

The research, published in PLoS Pathogens, undertaken by scientists at the University of Birmingham have thus identified a subset of Burkitt’s lymphomas in which EBV triggers a viral protein that keeps the tumour cells alive. Interestingly, this EBV protein behaves like a cellular protein, called bcl2, whose job is to keep normal cells alive.

Professor Alan Rickinson, lead author based at Cancer Research UK’s Institute for Cancer Studies at the University of Birmingham, said: EBV is carried by most of us as a ’dormant’ virus but in a very small proportion of people it can have devastating effects. Precisely how EBV helps to cause Burkitt’s lymphoma has remained a mystery. Now our study suggests that in some tumours it does so by switching on a protein that is usually inactive when the virus is dormant.
Around 90 per cent of adults in the UK are infected with EBV, most of them as young infants. Most infected people show no ill-effects, although a minority will develop glandular fever. Very rarely, the virus can trigger cancers, such as Burkitt’s lymphoma and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: Cancer Research UK scientists have played a leading role in EBV research from the discovery of the virus to immunotherapy for EBV-related lymphoma and this is another first for us."

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Immune vaccine boosts cancer antibodies

British scientists have discovered that linking a molecule which initiates antibody production, to a ’saboteur’ molecule, triggers the immune system to selectively destroy faulty cells. These findings published in the journal Blood, could potentially be used to selectively destroy tumour cells while ignoring healthy cells.
Mice were immunised with an antigen linked to a CpG ’saboteur’ molecule. The antigen smuggled the CpG into specific cells to trigger the immune response system to produce antibodies that could potentially seek and destroy cancer cells.
The scientists demonstrated that mice immunised with different antigen-CpG complexes had boosted antibody responses when compared with immunisation with the same antigen not linked to CpG. This demonstrated that the antigen was able to sneak CpG into the immune response hub of the cell. CpG is a tiny saboteur molecule (derived from microbial DNA) which is able to cross a B-cell membrane. Once inside it triggers B cells to produce specialised antibodies by activating an internal receptor called Toll Like Receptor 9 (TLR9).
This new strategy could be used for future cancer vaccination strategies either through preventative medicine or cancer treatment - to stimulate specific immune responses against faulty proteins in tumour cells. The technique in effect supercharges the body’s immune system to help it fight cancer.

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Cancer Prevention Latest Research April -May 2009
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