Papers presented at the 1st European Lung Cancer Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, have highlighted the growth of evidence that common viruses like human papilloma virus (HPV) may contribute to the development of lung cancer. In one report at the conference, Dr. Arash Rezazadeh, from the University of Louisville, described the results of a study on 23 lung cancer samples from patients in Kentucky. The researchers found six samples that tested positive for the presence of HPV, the virus behind many cases of cervical cancer.
Of the remaining 5 virus-positive samples, two were HPV type 16, two were HPV type 11 and one was HPV type 22. "The fact that five out of 22 non-small-cell lung cancer samples were HPV-positive supports the assumption that HPV contributes to the development of non-small-cell lung cancer," the researchers speculated. Rezazadeh noted that all the patients in the study were smokers. "We think HPV has a role as a co-carcinogen which increases the risk of cancer in a smoking population," he said.
In another paper, Israeli researchers linked the measles virus to some types of lung cancers. Their study included 65 patients with non-small-cell lung cancer, half of whom had evidence of the measles virus in tissue samples taken from their cancer.
"Measles virus is a ubiquitous human virus that may be involved in the pathogenesis of lung cancer," says lead author Prof. Samuel Ariad from Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva, Israel. "Most likely, it acts in modifying the effect of other carcinogens and not as a causative factor by itself."
While experts agree that smoking is by far the most important factor that contributes to lung cancer development, it is now becoming apparent that viruses may play a significant role in some cases.
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Source: European Society for Medical Oncology