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Finnish scientists discovered a new approach to treat virus-induced lymphomas

against the aggressive KSHV-induced PEL. KSHV displays two patterns of infection: latent and lytic phase. During latency, only a restricted set of viral genes is expressed. The KSHV genome encodes several homologues of cellular proteins, which engage cellular signaling pathways, govern cell proliferation and modulate apoptosis.

Majority of the PELs appear to have an intact TP53 gene suggesting that genetic alterations are not selected for during PEL tumorigenesis. The results of this study demonstrate binding of the KSHV latency associated antigen LANA to both p53 and MDM2, and that the MDM2 inhibitor Nutlin-3a disrupts the p53-MDM2-LANA complex and selectively induces massive apoptosis in PEL cells. The cytotoxic effect of Nutlin-3a was specific for the KSHV-infected cells since Nutlin-3a did not induce apoptosis in lymphoblastoid cell lines transformed with another human tumor virus, the Epstein-Barr virus, despite of their wt p53 status.

Moreover, the researchers show that Nutlin-3a has striking anti-tumor activity in vivo in a mouse xenograft model for the PEL. Nutlin-3a treatment resulted in a marked regression of all tumors in the treated animals in two weeks. These results demonstrate that p53 reactivation via Nutlin-3a is an efficient treatment for KSHV-lymphomas in mice and suggest a novel therapeutic strategy for treatment of these fatal virus-induced malignancies also in humans.
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Source:University of Helsinki


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