Gallo: viruses are lab tools in understanding cancers


Seven viruses known to accelerate specific cancers

More than 20 per cent of all human cancers involves infections, usually caused by viruses. Viruses are very important from a public health angle as they help scientists understand how human cancers develop and also because these are great laboratory tools in understanding cancers, co-discoverer of HIV and the Director of the Institute of Human Virology, U.S., Robert C. Gallo said.

Delivering a lecture on Cancer and Viruses, at the India International Public Conference here on Thursday, Dr. Gallo said scientists today knew of seven different viruses which could increase the incidence of human cancers.

Of the seven viruses known to accelerate specific cancers in humans, the mechanisms of each were different from the other. Dr. Gallo said that in the 1970s, retroviruses were believed not to affect humans and that no viruses were believed to cause cancer.

The first retrovirus, discovered in 1979, the HTLV-1, found to cause a very specific adult T cell leukaemia endemic to Japan. In 1982, the second human retrovirus, HTLV-2, was isolated. The characteristics of these two viruses helped a better understanding of the more sinister human retrovirus, the HIV later.

Role of HIV virus

HIV can also cause cancers in humans. The rates of oral, rectal, and anal cancers have increased and in all these tumours, the HIV virus seems to set off the tumour-virus to replicate more, he said.


There are also some bacteria like the Helicobacter pylori, which seems to insert a protein into the gastric cells in a complex process, causing gastric cancers.

There is also the theory that the microorganisms (microbiomes) in the gastric tract can set off an inflammatory response, causing colonic cancers. Thus if one considers the bacteria and the viruses together, the role of infectious agents in causing human cancers is very substantial, Dr. Gallo said.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 5:37:57 AM |

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