Cancer

08 March 2017

Is brain cancer really linked to herpes?

Despite longstanding speculations, researchers have found no evidence of the cytomegalovirus, commonly known as herpes, in tumour tissue.

0

There's no link between a common type of herpes virus and aggressive brain cancers, according to a new study that refutes earlier reports.

Never completely eradicated

Johns Hopkins researchers analysed tumour tissue from 125 patients with aggressive brain cancers called gliomas. Ninety-nine of the samples were from adults. Twenty-six were from children.

Other laboratories have also found no evidence of CMV in glioma tumours.

A Health24 article explains that in a healthy person who is infected with CMV, the immune system prevents the virus from replicating and causing disease. Although never completely eradicated from the body, the virus lies dormant. It is only when the immune system is severely weakened that CMV results in significant disease.

Little likelihood of connection 

Further studies are needed to rule out any role for CMV in these brain cancers. But the new findings suggest little likelihood of any connection, the researchers said.

"We have found no evidence of CMV in these tissues, and if there is no virus, targeting that virus to affect cancer using antiviral drugs or tailored vaccines doesn't make biological sense," said Dr Angelo De Marzo, a professor of pathology, oncology and urology at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore.

CMV is a very common virus. It infects more than half of all adults by age 40, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Former speculations

Several earlier studies reported finding CMV in tumour cells from patients with aggressive glioma brain cancers. This led to speculation that therapies targeting CMV could improve outcomes for people with gliomas.

"Significant resources have already gone into this field of study, making it very important to definitively answer the question of whether there's an association between CMV and gliomas or not," Dr Matthias Holdhoff said in a Hopkins news release. He's an associate professor of oncology and neurosurgery at the Kimmel Cancer Center.

As researchers and a number of laboratories have to date found no evidence of cytomegalovirus (CMV) in glioma tumour tissue, it can reasonably be assumed that any connection is unlikely.

Read More:

Engineered virus extends lives of brain cancer patients

Can cellphones cause brain cancer?

Young brain cancer sufferer ends life with dignity

 

Ask the Expert

Cancer expert

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit cansa.org.za.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules