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Our own treacherous immune genes can cause cancer after viral infection
Date:6/5/2014

HPV (human papillomavirus) infection is widely known to induce cancer. Many of the mutations that cause this virally-induced cancer are caused by a family of genes that normally combats viral infections, finds new UCL (University College London) research.

This raises the possibility of developing drugs to regulate the activity of these genes to prevent HPV-associated cancers from developing and reduce the ability of existing cancers to evolve resistance to treatments.

The research, published in Cell Reports, shows for the first time that genes from the 'APOBEC' family, which help to fight off viral infection, actually cause mutations that lead to HPV-associated cancer. This research was funded by the Rosetrees Trust, a charity dedicated to supporting pioneering medical research, with additional funding from the Debbie Fund and Cancer Research UK.

"Genes from the APOBEC family encode proteins that modify the DNA of invading viruses, causing mutations that prevent the virus from replicating," explains senior author Dr Tim Fenton, of the Tumour Virus team at the UCL Cancer Institute. "We now provide evidence that they can also cause mutations in our own DNA after HPV infection, leading to cancer."

Over 99% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV infection, and HPV is responsible for approximately 26,700 new cases of cancer each year in the United States. Previous genetic studies have shown associations between APOBEC genes and cancer.

"Our results show that after HPV infection, APOBEC genes cause very specific mutations, with very high frequency in a cancer-promoting gene called PIK3CA, thus leading to tumour development," says co-lead author Dr Stephen Henderson of the Bill Lyons Informatics Centre at the UCL Cancer Institute. "It is not clear why HPV infection causes the APOBEC genes to misbehave and mutate PIK3CA. It could be that the body responds to HPV infection with increased ABOBEC activity, simply making 'frien
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Contact: Harry Dayantis
h.dayantis@ucl.ac.uk
44-020-310-83844
University College London
Source:Eurekalert

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