Thinking about cancer as an infectious disease
Infection causes 1 in 5 cancers worldwide. Many tumor suppressors, such as p53, have dual functions to prevent tumor cell growth and to inhibit viral replication. These molecules may have evolved from a primordial unicellular eukaryotic antiviral defense system that inhibited DNA synthesis and initiated programmed cell death in response to viral infection. Two cancer viruses found by our lab, Kaposi’s sarcoma herpesvirus and Merkel cell polyomavirus, provide examples of how virus targeting in a cell can be used to understand important circuits controlling tumor cell growth.
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