Virus May Have Links to Prostate Cancer

The pathogen has never been spotted in humans before, researchers say

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FRIDAY, Feb. 24, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- A new virus has been identified in human prostate tumors, but the virus's link to prostate cancer is unclear and requires more research, researchers say.

"This is a virus that has never been seen in humans before. This is consistent with previous epidemiologic and genetic research that has suggested that prostate cancer may result from chronic inflammation, perhaps as a response to infection," researcher Dr. Eric Klein, head of urologic oncology at the Cleveland Clinic's Glickman Urologic Institute, said in a prepared statement.

The virus, which is closely related to viruses found in mice, has never before been detected in humans. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and the Cleveland Clinic found it using the same DNA-hunting "virus chip" used three years ago to confirm the identity of the SARS virus.

The finding was reported Friday at a prostate cancer symposium co-sponsored by four organizations: the AmericanSociety of Clinical Oncology, the American Society forTherapeutic Radiology and Oncology, the Prostate CancerFoundation, and the Society of Urologic Oncology. A full report will be published in the journal PloS Pathogens.

The virus was found more often in human prostate tumors with two copies of the RNASEL gene mutations than in tumors with at least one normal copy of the gene. RNASEL is a gene that serves as an important defense against viruses. Scientists have previously speculated that a virus may be involved in some types of prostate cancer in men with mutated RNASEL genes.

Klein and his colleagues say the finding further validates the use of the virus chip to discover previously unknown viruses, and to learn more about viral causes of disease.

"The power of the virus chip resides in its ability to simultaneously screen for all viruses, without preconceptions or bias. In the case of these prostate tissues, no one would have suspected a virus of this class," UCSF researcher Joe DeRisi, who developed the chip, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has this about prostate cancer prevention.

SOURCE: University of California, San Francisco, news release, Feb. 24, 2006

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