Experimental drug takes aim at cancers associated with Epstein-Barr virus
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Washington, DC – August 22, 2018 – Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) doesn’t directly cause cancer, but infection with this common herpes virus brings an increased risk of some cancers, including fast-growing lymphomas. This week in mSphere, researchers report on a new drug that works by targeting EBV-positive tumors.

In experiments on mice, the drug inhibited tumor development and metastases for EBV-related lymphomas. The findings suggest the drug may be useful in treating malignancies in EBV-positive patients and have led to a phase I trial in that patient population.

The Epstein-Barr virus is so common that almost everyone in the United States has been infected by the time they reach their twenties. An infection can cause mononucleosis (the “kissing disease”), but many people remain asymptomatic their entire lives. An increased risk of other types of cancer, including nasopharyngeal and stomach cancers, has been associated with EBV infections.

“In certain circumstances the virus can contribute to cancer.,” says the study’s lead author, microbiologist Richard Longnecker at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.

Infections by EBV are thought to promote the growth of B lymphocytes, resulting in lymphomas. Importantly, EBV encodes a protein called LMP2A (Latent Membrane Protein 2A) that

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