UNC scientist finds chief AIDS cancer needs trauma and virus to get started

. A second biopsy revealed it to be Kaposis sarcoma.

The rapidly growing tumor required radiation treatments and finally disappeared six weeks after radiation therapy began. It has been gone now for more than two years.

Through studies of the biopsied tumor tissue we found virus in macrophages, which are Pac Man-like scavenger cells that fight infection and also promote wound healing, the dentist and microbiologist said. We also found viral genes expressed for the first time in epithelial cells and in both white cells called lymphocytes and endothelial cells in tissues and blood vessels around the wound.

Endothelial cells eventually evolve into spindle cells, which are commonly seen in Kaposis sarcoma, but not in healthy people.

This work appears to explain why -- when some people have surgery, including transplant patients -- they develop Kaposis sarcoma at their suture sites, Webster-Cyriaque said. It also suggests that anti-viral agents targeted specifically at HHV8 could be useful in preventing Kaposis sarcoma in people whose immune systems have been suppressed, such as transplant patients.

The research is the first demonstration that HHV8 virus can be detected in saliva prior to disease development, she said. Previous studies examined blood to detect the virus before Kaposis sarcoma lesions developed but not saliva.

Looking only at blood, we would have missed it, said Webster-Cyriaque, a member of UNCs Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Center for Inflammatory Diseases.

Kaposis sarcoma is a particular problem for gay men in the United States, older, heterosexual men in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, including Spain and Italy, and people in African nations.


Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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