Research might link virus, cancer

By By Jamie Bowen

By Jamie Bowen

Researchers at the U and Columbia University medical schools have found a virus potentially linked to prostate cancer.

Researchers found the virus, normally known for causing leukemia and sarcoma in animals, in human prostate cells. The virus has been evident in many trials done recently at the U and might lead to new innovations in prostate cancer research.

“(The virus) was associated with more aggressive tumors,” said Ila Singh, U associate professor of pathology in a statement.

During their research, Singh and other researchers compared more than 200 human prostate cancer cells to 100 non-cancerous cells. They found that the virus was evident in more than a quarter of the cancerous cells and only in six percent of the non-cancerous cells.

“We still don’t know that this virus causes cancer in people, but that is an important question we’re going to investigate,” Singh said.

According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, if the investigation proves that the virus causes prostate cancer, it would open up many doors, including developing vaccines, diagnostic tests and new therapies for treating cancer.

Other findings in the research show that genetic mutation does not enhance the susceptibility to the virus, but there is still more research to be done.

“Right now it is a very exciting time to be in the field,” Singh said.

Singh is also raising other questions in her research, such as whether the virus infects women and how prevalent it is in the general population.

“We have many questions right now, and we believe this merits further investigation,” she said.

Singh started her research three years ago at Columbia University’s medical school where she had been conducting research on viruses that cause leukemia in mice. She moved to the U in 2008 to continue her research.