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Newly discovered virus linked to deadly skin cancer
Date:1/17/2008

ed MCC live nine months or less, and some two-thirds of MCC patients die within five years.

If these findings are confirmed, we can look at how this new virus contributes to a very bad cancer with high mortality, and, just as importantly, use it as a model to understand how cancers occur and the cell pathways that are targeted, added Dr. Moore. Information that we gain could possibly lead to a blood test or vaccine that improves disease management and aids in prevention.

For example, vaccines are now available against human papillomavirus (HPV) to prevent cervical cancer, noted Dr. Chang, professor of pathology. MCV is another model that may increase our understanding of how cancers arise, with possibly important implications for non-viral cancers like prostate or breast cancer.

MCV has additional similarities to HPV since both viruses integrate into the tumor cell genome but not the genome of healthy cells. This integration destroys the viruss ability to replicate normally and may be the first critical step in MCC development.

The Pittsburgh team analyzed nearly 400,000 messenger RNA genetic sequences from four samples of MCC tumor tissue using a technique refined in their lab called digital transcriptome subtraction (DTS). Comparing the sequences expressed by the tumor genome to gene sequences mapped by the Human Genome Project, the researchers systematically subtracted known human sequences, leaving a group of genetic transcripts that might be from a foreign organism.

One sequence was similar to but distinct from all known viruses. The team went on to show that this sequence belonged to a new polyomavirus present in eight of 10 (80 percent) Merkel cell tumors they tested but only five of 59 (8 percent) control tissues from various body sites and four of 25 (16 percent) control skin tissues.

Although MCV is most commonly found in Merkel cell tumors, it also can be found in healthy people. The most important dis
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Contact: Michele Baum
BaumMD@upmc.edu
412-647-3555
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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