The virus behind the cancer .pdf - The virus behind the cancer > Features > Spring 2006 | Yale Medicine Thevirus behind the cancer Onein10humancancers

The virus behind the cancer .pdf - The virus behind the...

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1/28/2018 The virus behind the cancer > Features > Spring 2006 | Yale Medicine 1/10 The virus behind the cancer One in 10 human cancers starts with a viral infection, often the ubiquitous human papillomavirus. Yale scientists want to know why —and are hot on the trail of new vaccines and therapies to treat the virus behind the cancer. By Jennifer Kaylin More than 50 years ago, a young woman named Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Despite surgery and aggressive radiation therapy, the cancer soon spread throughout her body, and on October 4, 1951, she died. It was a cruel death for the 31-year-old mother of five, but Lacks’ story didn’t end there. George O. Gey, M.D., head of tissue culture at Johns Hopkins University, where Lacks was treated, had been searching, for research purposes, for a line of human cells that could live indefinitely outside the body. He got his wish when cells from Lacks’ cancerous tumor were cultured. Just as they had done in her body, the cells multiplied ferociously in the lab, crawling up the sides of test tubes and consuming the medium around them. An entire generation of the cells reproduced every 24 hours. Referring to Lacks’ cells, Gey declared at the time, “It is possible that, from a fundamental study such as this, we will be able to learn a way by which cancer can be completely wiped out.” To this day, Lacks’ cells, known as the HeLa cell line, are some of the most robust and rapidly growing cells known to science. They are still used by thousands of
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1/28/2018 The virus behind the cancer > Features > Spring 2006 | Yale Medicine 2/10 researchers around the world to decipher the complexities of cell biology, particularly as they apply to cancer. At Yale, scientists are using the HeLa cell line to study, among other things, the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes the cervical cancer that killed Lacks. “Her legacy,” says Daniel C. DiMaio, M.D., Ph.D., the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Genetics and professor of therapeutic radiology, “is that her cells are helping us unravel the pathogenesis of cervical cancer, so that some day we might be able to prevent and treat it. It’s rather remarkable.” The field of human tumor virology is still a relatively new area of scientific inquiry. Although it has been known for nearly a century that viruses can cause tumors in animals, only in recent decades have human tumor viruses been identified. Researchers at Yale, among them I. George Miller, M.D., have contributed to our understanding of the mechanisms of viral tumorigenesis. Miller, the John F. Enders Professor of Pediatrics and professor of epidemiology and of molecular biophysics and biochemistry, was the first to show that a human virus can cause tumors in primates. Experiments he conducted at Yale in the 1960s showed that the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) could cause lymphoma in cotton-top marmosets. He also showed that the virus was very effective at changing normal human
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