The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease, which report says play a role in cervical, head, neck and other cancers.
According to a new study, published in the journal Frontiers in Oncology, it also appears that HPV is working behind the scene in some breast cancers.
“HPVs in breast cancer are likely to be biologically active,” write the international team of researchers. “HPV oncogenic influences may occur early in the development of breast cancer.”
The researchers who conducted the research scanned the genomes of 855 cancers, looking for HPV-particular RNA sequences identified in The Cancer Genome Atlas. Result of the study showed that thirty low-risk viruses and 20 high-risk HPVs were spotted in the samples. The most common by far was HPV 18, a high-risk strain that was found in 55 percent of 40 of the specimens.
“Thirty (3.5%) low-risk and 20 (2.3%) high-risk HPV types were identified in 855 breast cancers from the TCGA database. The high risk types were HPV 18 (48%), HPV 113 (24%), HPV 16 (10%), HPV 52 (10%). Data from the PCR cohort study indicated that HPV type 18 was the most common type identified in breast cancer specimens (55% of 40 breast cancer specimens) followed by HPV 16 (13%).”
The researchers from the University of New South Wales and the University of Miami however, added that the viruses did not appear to be in the forefront of most of the cancers.
“While these data indicate that HPVs may have a possible role in some breast cancers, they may not have a major causal role,” write the authors. “However, it is important to determine whether high-risk HPVs have a causal role in even a small proportion of breast cancers.”
In terms of relative breakthroughs in oncology over the last couple of decades, breast cancer has had relative success. Scientists and doctors have being able to identify a growing variety of the tumours and their causes, be they hormonal, genetic, or environmental. One factor that has also aided effective treatment is early detection among those suffering from it.
The United States has some 2.8 million breast cancer survivors, while 246,660 new cases of invasive tumours are identified annually. It however, remains the second-largest cause of cancer death of women in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.
In 2010, the HPV vaccine, Gardasil was approved by the FDA, and till date remains a standard recommendation for girls before they begin sexual activity.
The study, however, concluded that while data collected for the purpose of establishing its claim indicate that HPVs may have a possible cause or role in some breast cancers; they may not have a major causal role.
The research added that there are two reasons for its conclusion:
“(i) in immunocompromised patients (due to either human immunodeficiency infections or post organ transplantation therapy), there is no increased prevalence of breast cancer, which is in contrast to the two- to sixfold increased prevalence of HPV associated cervical and head and neck cancer in these patients (10), and (ii) the HPV viral load in breast cancer is extremely low (11, 12).”