TUESDAY, June 29, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- The virus that causes skin tumors in Kaposi's sarcoma patients transforms blood vessel lining cells into cells that usually line lymphatic vessels, says a Massachusetts General Hospital study.
"Our study suggests, for the first time, that Kaposi's sarcoma tumors are derived from blood vessel endothelial (lining) cells that have been reprogrammed by infection with the Kaposi's sarcoma herpes virus," research leader Dr. Michael Detmar said in a prepared statement.
"This infection 'turns on' genes associated with lymphatic vessel development and 'switches off' blood vessel genes," Detmar said.
"As far as I know, this is the first report of a switch from one differentiated cell type to another. Although clinical applications are difficult to predict, some of the genes we identified as associated with (Kaposi's sarcoma) growth may be targets for potential new therapies," he said.
Kaposi's sarcoma is the most common malignant tumor in people with AIDS. It also develops in other people with weakened immune systems.
The study was published in the June 27 online issue of Nature Genetics.
The American Cancer Society has more about Kaposi's sarcoma.