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Study Casts Doubt on a Brain Cancer's Link to Herpes

Researchers find no evidence of cytomegalovirus in tumor tissue

TUESDAY, March 7, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- There's no link between a common type of herpes virus and aggressive brain cancers, according to a new study that refutes earlier reports.

Johns Hopkins researchers analyzed tumor tissue from 125 patients with aggressive brain cancers called gliomas. Ninety-nine of the samples were from adults. Twenty-six were from children. The researchers found no evidence of cytomegalovirus (CMV), a type of herpes virus, in the tumor tissue.

Further studies are needed to rule out any role for CMV in these brain cancers. But the new findings suggest little likelihood of any connection, the researchers said.

"We have found no evidence of CMV in these tissues, and if there is no virus, targeting that virus to affect cancer using antiviral drugs or tailored vaccines doesn't make biological sense," said Dr. Angelo De Marzo, a professor of pathology, oncology and urology at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore.

CMV is a very common virus. It infects more than half of all adults by age 40, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Several earlier studies reported finding CMV in tumor cells from patients with aggressive glioma brain cancers. This led to speculation that therapies targeting CMV could improve outcomes for people with gliomas.

"Significant resources have already gone into this field of study, making it very important to definitively answer the question of whether there's an association between CMV and gliomas or not," Dr. Matthias Holdhoff said in a Hopkins news release. He's an associate professor of oncology and neurosurgery at the Kimmel Cancer Center.

He noted that other laboratories have also found no evidence of CMV in glioma tumors.

The study was published recently in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

More information

The American Brain Tumor Association has more on gliomas.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins, news release, Feb. 28, 2017

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