Wednesday, February 11, 2009

silenced genes drive viral cancers

The Scientist | Epigenetic changes in certain viruses can make the difference between a simple infection and cancer, according to a new study published early online tomorrow (Feb 10th) in Genome Research.

Stephan Beck, a medical genomicist at University College London who was not involved in the research, said he was "excited" by the findings, which identify "the correlation between cancer progression and methylation."

Researchers have been examining the link between DNA methylation, which generally causes gene silencing, and cancer, and to date, "this is the most comprehensive study of a complete methylome" -- or methylation map -- of a virus, Beck said.

Some 15% of cancers worldwide can be linked to viral infection. Manel Esteller, Director of the Cancer Epigenetics and Biology Program (PEBC-IDIBELL) in Barcelona, and his collaborators set out to create maps of DNA methylation patterns in three known oncogenic viruses: human papilloma virus (HPV), Hepatitis B virus (Hep B), and the Eppstein Barr Virus (EBV).