Vaccines can help prevent cancers caused by viruses.
The first virus to cause cancer in humans wasn’t identified until the 1960s, when former CRI legends Lloyd J. Old, M.D., and Georg Klein, M.D., D.Sc., helped characterize the link between Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and certain cancers.
Many other viruses are now known to contribute to cancer in humans, including the human papilloma virus or HPV (associated with cervical cancer) and hepatitis B virus or HBV (associated with liver cancer). A connection between HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and Kaposi’s sarcoma was identified by Bijan Safai, M.D., D.Sc., who also aided in HIV’s initial identification.
Viruses work—and contribute to cancer—by sneakily inserting their genes into our DNA, which can disrupt and de-regulate the genetic activity of our cells and cause them to grow in inappropriate ways. Fortunately, vaccines have been developed that can prepare our immune systems against certain infections and therefore help protect us against the cancers that they can cause. Already, approved vaccines are available against HBV and some strains of HPV, which can help protect against liver cancer and several other types of cancer, respectively.
The following CRI-funded scientists are working to better understand how our immune system works to combat viruses, in addition to developing strategies that can improve the effectiveness of vaccination against certain cancer-causing viruses:
Image credit: Cancer Research Institute