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New-Found Prostate Cancer Virus Could Lead To Vaccine

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

For the first time, researchers have found a virus in malignant prostate cells. The virus, known to contribute to sarcoma and leukemia in animals could lead to a prostate cancer vaccine if further studies show the virus causes prostate cancer in humans.

Scientists at University of Utah examined cells in over 200 cases of prostate cancer, comparing to normal prostate cells. They found the XMRV (Xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus), in twenty-seven percent of malignant prostate cells studied. The virus was also associated with more aggressive prostate cancer.

According to Ila R. Singh, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pathology at University of Utah and the study's senior author, "We still don't know that this virus causes cancer in people, but that is an important question we're going to investigate."

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In addition to finding the virus in prostate cells, the researchers also confirmed that XMRV is a gammaretrovirus. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the Cleveland Clinic discovered in 2006 that the simple type of virus causes cancer in animals, but never linked the virus to prostate cancer.

Dr. Singh says, "We have many questions right now, and we believe this merits further investigation." The scientists also found that susceptibility to the virus is not linked to genetic mutation as previously thought.

The virus could be prevalent in the general population, causing cancer in women, and even be sexually transmitted. If the XMRV does cause cancer, it means the virus could be targeted to prevent XMRV infection in people.