A new study suggests that two common viruses, both already linked to cancers, may be interacting to exacerbate tumors of the prostate.
University of New South Wales scientists say their research among Australian men found that human papillomavirus and Epstein Barr virus both were present in more than half of sampled malignant prostate cancers and a large number of benign cancers. HPV alone was found in approximately 70 percent of 100 prostate cancer samples examined, while 55 percent had both HPV and EBV.
Lead researcher Professor Noel Whitaker, of the university’s School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, said experimental research suggests HPV and EBV may work together to support cancer cells’ survival and growth. This has been seen in cervical cancer cells but could differ in glandular prostate cells, the study authors wrote.
Whitaker said HPV strain 18, already associated with other human cancers, was found in the prostate samples. HPV 18 is a target of the vaccine Gardasil, which is provided without charge to Australian teenage girls and will be offered to boys in a school-based program beginning next year.
“If HPV 18 is also associated with prostate cancers, as our research suggests, vaccinating boys may yet prove to have an unexpected direct benefit for them as well,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker said HPV had been found in prostate tumors but that this was the first time an Australian study had found the two viruses in the same tissue. He warned, however, that this was not conclusive proof of the viruses’ role in the cancer. It is possible the viruses were harmless, the researchers said, as their presence was ubiquitous in normal, benign and malignant prostate tissues. But given the viruses’ links to other cancers, Whitaker said, “It would seem quite unlikely that they are harmless.”
Dr. Anthony Lowe, CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, called the study interesting but said more research is needed to establish a causal link.
[PNU editor’s note: HPV 18 is also a target of the vaccine Cervarix. The study, “Human Papillomavirus and Epstein Barr Virus in Prostate Cancer: Koilocytes Indicate Potential Oncogenic Influences of Human Papillomavirus in Prostate Cancer,” was published in the journal Prostate (2012;doi:10.1002/pros.22562).
Date of Publication
Disclaimer: NPIN provides this information as a public service only. The views and information provided about the materials, funding opportunities, and organizations do not necessarily state or reflect those of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, or NPIN.