Researchers in the Division of Tumor Virology are focused
on developing primate models for human cancers and understanding
the molecular mechanisms of lymphoproliferative diseases induced
by herpesviruses. Viral-induced cancers in primates are relevant
to the study of human cancer because many viruses that occur
naturally in monkeys are strikingly similar to those that
have been identified in humans.
Nonhuman primate models of viral-induced cancer are helping
NEPRC scientists to understand fundamental mechanisms through
which normal cells are transformed into cancerous cells. The
contribution of individual oncogenes to this process of unrestricted
cell proliferation is also being intensively investigated.
Ongoing research in tumor virology focuses on Kaposi's sarcoma-associated
herpesvirus, or KSHV, and the related monkey viruses, herpesvirus
saimiri and rhesus monkey rhadinovirus, both of which were
originally discovered at NEPRC. Kaposi's sarcoma is the most
commonly found tumor in patients with AIDS. Investigators
in the Divisions of Tumor Virology, Microbiology, Comparative
Pathology, and Primate Resources are working together to further
develop the rhesus monkey rhadinovirus as an animal model
for KSHV pathogenesis.
Another program with important implications for human disease
is the Center's research on colon cancer. Colorectal cancer,
the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the US, is most
often associated with a genetic mutation on specific tumor
suppressor genes; however, NEPRC scientists are actively
exploring a potential viral etiology of colon cancer. New
viruses, closely related to human Epstein-Barr virus and hepatitis
G virus, have already been identified from primate colon carcinomas,
and NEPRC researchers are now determining how these viruses
contribute to the development of colon cancer.