Human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that can cause cervical and head and
neck cancers, may also trigger some cases of lung cancer, according to a small
Researchers examined 36 tumour tissue samples from patients with
non-small-cell lung cancer who had never smoked. Smoking is a major cause of
lung cancer, but the causes of lung cancer in nonsmokers can be difficult to
The investigators found that about 6% of the tissue samples showed signs of
infection from two strains of HPV known to cause cancer. The strains are called
HPV 16 and HPV 18.
Further examination of the tissue samples infected with HPV 16 revealed that
the virus had integrated into the tumour's DNA, which the researchers said
provides stronger evidence that HPV infection caused the tumour.
HPV may play role in lung cancer
The study was scheduled to be presented at the annual meeting of
the American Association for Cancer Research, in Washington, DC. Study data and
conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed
If it is confirmed that HPV plays a role in some cases of lung cancer, the
next step is to learn more about those tumours so they can be treated more
effectively, said the researchers from the Fox Chase Cancer Center in
Philadelphia. This study, however, did not prove a cause-and-effect link between
the virus and lung cancer.
Lung cancer kills more than 1 million people a year. About 10% of lung cancer
cases occur in non-smokers.
"Given how many patients develop lung cancer, if even a small percentage of
those tumours stem from HPV, that ends up being a large number of patients,"
study author Dr Ranee Mehra, an attending physician in medical oncology at Fox
Chase, said in a center news release.
The US National Cancer Institute has more about lung
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