Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cancer Watch: Prostate Cancer Caused by a Virus?

(Link to this article:

Note: Dr. Greg Tangonan, Director of the Ateneo Innovation Center, forwarded to me an article regarding prostate cancer. As an applied mathematician, I am interested in modeling and simulation of complex systems such as cancer dynamics.

A common type of cancer among men, specially those above 50 years old, is prostate cancer. The prostate is a gland in the male reproductive system.

Geographically, rates of prostate cancer vary around the world. It has been found that it is least common in South and East Asia, more common in Europe, and most common in the United States.

It is the second leading cause of cancer death among men in the United States and the United Kingdom (the first is lung cancer).

So far, the specific causes of prostate cancer remain unknown. Studies have shown that a man's risk of developing prostate cancer is related to his age, genetics, race, diet, lifestyle, medications, and other factors. Age is the primary risk factor. Prostate cancer is not common in men younger than 45, but becomes more common with advancing age. It was found out that the average age at the time of diagnosis is 70. However, some studies show that many men never know they have prostate cancer.

A recent article shows that prostate cancer may be caused by a virus.

Below is a reproduction of the article (that I received from Dr. Tangonan):

Prostate Cancer Caused by a Virus?

"Researchers reporting online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences think prostate cancer may be related to a virus. Scientists at Columbia University and the University of Utah have determined that a virus that's already known to cause certain other cancers in animals is present in human prostate cancer cells.

Comparing more than 200 human prostate cancers to more than 100 non-cancerous prostate-tissue samples, they found that 27 percent of the cancers contained the virus known as XMRV, which was found in only 6 percent of the benign tissues. XMRV has been under investigation for its potential role in causing cancer for some time; this new study strengthens the link and also dispels the previous belief that certain people with genetic mutations are more susceptible than others the XMRV infection.

There's no evidence yet that XMRV causes prostate cancer. But should such a relationship emerge, the discovery might lead to new ways to diagnose, treat or even prevent the disease, which affects nearly 200,000 men each year in the U.S.

Other viruses are known to cause cancer in humans. For instance, thehuman papillomavirus, or HPV, causes cervical cancer in women. TheGardasil vaccine targets HPV and thus wards off that form of cancer.

A prostate cancer vaccine is still a distant prospect, though. And researchers point out that much remains to be learned about XMRV. Does it affect women? Is it sexually transmitted? How common is it? And does it cause cancer elsewhere in the body, other than in the prostate?"

"We have many questions right now," said lead researcher Ila Singh of the University of Utah in a press release, "and we believe this merits further investigation."


Raffy Saldaña


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