The research was first announced at an American Society of Clinical Oncology Meeting, but only now is the full, peer-reviewed report available.
The paper, entitled "Identification of a Novel Gammaretrovirus in Prostate Tumors of Patients Homozygous for R462Q RNASEL Variant," reports that the researchers detected the new virus more frequently in men with mutations in both their copies of RNASEL than in those with at least one normal copy.
Scientists have long speculated about a connection between cancer and infectious diseases. The possible connection has been especially true in the case of prostate cancer because a variant on the viral-defense gene, RNASEL, has been implicated in 15% of prostate cancer cases. The newly discovered virus is closely related to virus associated with leukemia in mice.
"We have made a very fascinating discovery never before seen in humans that is very similar to one found in a mammal that causes cancer," said Dr. Eric Klein of the Cleveland Clinic. "But we have not proven this virus causes prostate cancer."
Klein was a coauthor on the paper, along with Joe Derisi, the lead author, and other scientists at the University of California San Francisco.
The paper's observations raise a large number of questions for future experimentation, including whether there is any relationship between the virus and the disease, what cells are infected, and the epidemiology of infection.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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