Hepatitis B and C viruses are associated with liver cancer. Epstein Barr virus and Kaposi’s sarcoma associated herpesvirus are associated with lymphomas, nasopharyngeal carcinoma and Kaposi’s sarcoma. Helicobacter pylori is associated with a sub-set of gastric cancers. These are just a few examples. For instance, Kaposi’s sarcoma in Africa is 3 times more prevalent that prostate cancer in the US.
These cancers are rapid and devastating, but they offer a unique scientific opportunity. For some of these infectious agents, effective preventative measures already exist. Examples are drugs against Helicobacter and vaccines against HBV and HPV. Thus, just like other preventative strategies e.g. tobacco control to prevent lung and oral cancers, preventing infections with the agents listed above should reduce the global burden of cancer.
UNC Lineberger member and associate professor of surgery, Carol Shores, MD, PhD, FACS, has been working in Malawi to conduct innovative clinical trials in Burkitt lymphoma (BL), which is the most common pediatric cancer in sub-Saharan Africa and is associated with Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV).