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What goes wrong when a virus infection causes cancer?

  • Researcher: Dr Dirk Pegtel
  • Institution: VU University Medical Center
  • Award Amount: £198,500 for 3 years from March 2011
  • Cancer Type: Hodgkins Disease
What goes wrong when a virus infection causes cancer?
Some cancers are caused by viruses, but only after something goes seriously wrong. For example, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infects 90% of the world population apparently causing little harm. In fact EBV is generally known as the herpes virus that causes kissing disease in adolescents. However EBV is associated with cancers such as lymphomas, carcinomas and childhood cancers. Infection with a virus triggers the cell's alarm system to try to fight the infection and defend the body from the virus. However some cancer-associated viruses, including EBV have evolved clever mechanisms to counteract these defences to establish a persistent infection. In some circumstances the disarmament of these defences increases the chance that infection leads to cancer. Dr Pegtel is using his Worldwide Cancer Research grant to investigate how EBV disarms the host's antiviral defence.
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