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Virus May Drive Some Prostate Cancers
Date:9/8/2009

Testing for XMRV might help spot more aggressive disease, experts say

TUESDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- A new study tightens the suspected link between a virus and prostate cancer, and raises the possibility that infection with the virus could be an indicator of aggressive tumors that require swift treatment.

"We're not making any causal association at this moment," stressed Dr. Ila R. Singh, an associate professor of pathology at the University of Utah, lead author of a report on the virus, known as xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV).

"There probably are multiple causes of prostate cancer, but for the first time we have analyzed prostate cancer and normal prostate tissue and found cancers are much more likely to have [the virus]," Singh said.

The research is published in this week's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A link between XMRV and prostate cancer was first reported two years ago by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and the University of California, San Francisco. They found the virus in cells around tumors.

The new study, involving more than 300 prostate cancer specimens, found that 27 percent of them carried the virus.

"It was also more likely to be present in more aggressive tumors," Singh said. "We found it in 20 percent of the least aggressive tumors and over 45 percent of the most aggressive tumors."

So, a test for presence of XMRV could be at least a partial solution to the major problem facing doctors who treat prostate cancer: distinguishing the minority of virulent, life-threatening cancers from the majority of tumors which grow so slowly that "watchful waiting" may be enough.

Prostate cancers now are diagnosed by a test for prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a protein produced by the gland. However, PSA tests cannot single out aggressive cancers, and there is a major debate on whether widespre
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