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Epstein - Barr virus Protein Implicated in Blood Cancer

Researchers at the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine had identified a link between an Epstein - Barr virus (EBV) protein and a vital cancer pathway earlier this year//. They have now proceeded further in this research and have found that the viral protein, named EBNA3C is responsible for breaking down a retinoblastoma protein.

This protein is very necessary in controlling cell proliferation. In the absence of this control, cells can begin to proliferate very rapidly and become transformed in cancer cells. The researchers have published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Epstein-Barr virus is already implicated in diseases such as AIDS, Burkitt's lymphoma, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. It also causes infectious mononucleosis or kissing disease. Erle S. Robertson, PhD, an Associate Professor of Microbiology who leads the Tumor Virology Program at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center, and MD/PhD student Jason Knight are the authors of this particular paper.

Researchers feel that blocking the molecular signals caused by EBNA3C could potentially lead to development of new drugs against the virus. "Stopping this step in the life cycle of EBV could be a major potential target for the development of therapeutics for treating EBV-related B cell lymphomas," Robertson said. "This is especially important because a large percentage of patients are non-responsive to the current frontline drug for treating B cell lymphoma, a CD20 monoclonal antibody." The researchers surmise that the first use of future therapies from these studies could be in lymphoproliferative disease in transplant and immunocompromised patients."

Contact: Karen Kreeger
karen.kreeger@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
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