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Journal: Infectious agents and cancer


The Hedgehog (Hh) proteins comprise a group of secreted proteins that regulate cell growth, differentiation and survival. Inappropriate activation of the Hh signaling pathway has been implicated in the development of a variety of cancers. Hh pathway inhibitors are a relatively new class of therapeutic agents that act by targeting the proteins involved in the regulation of Hh pathway (PTCH, SMO and Gli). Together, they serve as exciting new prospects, with a bright future, both alone or as an adjuvant to the more traditional anti-cancer drugs.

Concepts: Immune system, DNA, Protein, Gene expression, Developmental biology, Endoplasmic reticulum, Chemotherapy, Hedgehog signaling pathway


BACKGROUND: The obligate intracellular protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii infects humans and other warm-blooded animals and establishes a chronic infection in the central nervous system after invasion. Studies showing a positive correlation between anti-Toxoplasma antibodies and incidences of brain cancer have led to the notion that Toxoplasma infections increase the risk of brain cancer. However, molecular events involved in Toxoplasma induced brain cancers are not well understood. PRESENTATION OF THE HYPOTHESIS: Toxoplasma gains the control of host cell functions including proliferation and apoptosis by channelizing parasite proteins into the cell cytoplasm and some of the proteins are targeted to the host nucleus. Recent studies have shown that Toxoplasma is capable of manipulating host micro RNAs (miRNAs) which play a central role in post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. Therefore, we hypothesize that Toxoplasma promotes brain carcinogenesis by altering the host miRNAome using parasitic proteins and/or miRNAs. TESTING THE HYPOTHESIS: The miRNA expression profiles of brain cancer specimens obtained from patients that are infected with Toxoplasma could be analyzed and compared with that of normal tissues as well as brain cancer tissues from Toxoplasma uninfected individuals to identify dysregulated miRNAs in Toxoplasma-driven brain cancer cells. Identified miRNAs will be further confirmed by studying cancer related miRNA profiles of the different types of brain cells before and after Toxoplasma infection using cell lines and experimental animals.Expected outcome: The miRNAs specifically associated with brain cancers that are caused by Toxoplasma infection will be identified. IMPLICATIONS OF THE HYPOTHESIS: Toxoplasma infection may promote initiation and progression of cancer by modifying the miRNAome in brain cells. If this hypothesis is true, the outcome of this research would lead to the development of novel biomarkers and therapeutic tools against Toxoplasma driven brain cancers.

Concepts: Nervous system, DNA, Gene, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Cell, Cancer, RNA


Mounting evidence suggests a causal relationship between specific bacterial infections and the development of certain malignancies. However, the possible role of the keystone periodontal pathogen, Porphyromonas gingivalis, in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) remains unknown. Therefore, we examined the presence of P. gingivalis in esophageal mucosa, and the relationship between P. gingivalis infection and the diagnosis and prognosis of ESCC.

Concepts: Immune system, Cancer, Disease, Infectious disease, Bacteria, Lung cancer, Squamous cell carcinoma, Esophageal cancer


Since the introduction of the HPV vaccine, questions have been asked about its efficacy in preventing cancer linked with HPV. Concerns about the HPV vaccine safety profile have also been raised. This paper highlights the rapidly growing body of evidence (including clinical trials and post-marketing surveillance) illustrating both the safety of the HPV vaccine, through a detailed investigation of reported adverse events, and its efficacy in reducing both HPV infections rates and the resulting drop in cervical lesions, which have been demonstrated to be good predictors of cervical cancer risk.

Concepts: Immune system, Clinical trial, Human papillomavirus, Cervical cancer, Papillomavirus, HPV vaccine, Gardasil, Anal cancer


Pap screening combined with loop electrosurgical excision procedures (LEEP) is almost 100% effective in preventing cervical cancer mortality yet many countries with these procedures have now implemented broad HPV vaccination programs. HPV vaccines have not been demonstrated to be more effective or safer than Pap screening in the prevention of cervical cancer and Pap screening will still be required even in vaccinated women. The HPV vaccine costs Au$450 per person and it does not protect against ~30% of cancer. This investigation analyses the cost-effectiveness of using the HPV vaccine in countries where Pap screening and surgical procedures have already reduced cervical cancer mortality to very low rates. Cost-effectiveness of vaccination programs is being determined by mathematical models which are founded on many assumptions. It is necessary to examine the rigor of these assumptions to be certain of the health benefits that are predicted. In 2002 scientists concluded that HPV 16 and 18 were the central and independent cause of most cervical cancer. This conclusion was based on molecular technology. If HPV 16 and 18 infections are the central and independent cause of most cervical cancer then the incidence of HPV 16 and 18 should vary with the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer worldwide. This correlation does not exist. It is also observed that the majority of HPV 16/18 infections do not lead to cervical cancer. This indicates that other etiological or ‘risk’ factors are necessary for persistent HPV infection to progress to cancer. The benefits of HPV vaccines have been determined by using pre-cancerous lesions in young women as a surrogate for cervical cancer. This surrogate is found to be inadequate as an end-point for cervical cancer. Clinical trials have only provided speculative benefits for the efficacy of HPV vaccines against cancer and the long-term risks of the vaccine have not been established. Pap screening will still be required in vaccinated women hence HPV vaccination programs are not cost-effective, and may do more harm than good, in countries where regular Pap screening and surgery has already reduced the burden of this disease.

Concepts: Immune system, Cancer, Human papillomavirus, Cervical cancer, HPV vaccine, Gardasil, Vaccine, Anal cancer


The rationale behind current worldwide human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination programs starts from two basic premises, 1) that HPV vaccines will prevent cervical cancers and save lives and, 2) have no risk of serious side effects. Therefore, efforts should be made to get as many pre-adolescent girls vaccinated in order to decrease the burden of cervical cancer. Careful analysis of HPV vaccine pre- and post-licensure data shows however that both of these premises are at odds with factual evidence and are largely derived from significant misinterpretation of available data.

Concepts: Immune system, Human papillomavirus, Cervical cancer, Papillomavirus, HPV vaccine, Gardasil, Vaccination, Anal cancer


Hepatitis C virus is a serious infection causing cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death. The recent development of direct-acting antivirals has dramatically improved tolerability of treatment and rates of cure. However, the high price of these medications has often limited access to care and resulted in rationing of medications in the United States to those with advanced liver disease, access to specialist care, and without active substance use. This review assesses the way pharmaceutical prices are established and how pricing of directly acting antiviral regimens in the United States has impacted access to treatment for hepatitis C virus.

Concepts: Cancer, Disease, Virus, Cirrhosis, Hepatitis, Hepatocellular carcinoma, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B


Cat-scratch disease (CSD) is a common infection in children; however, the wide spectrum of its clinical picture may lead to delayed diagnosis. An unusual presentation of CSD includes in the differential diagnosis malignant diseases, Epstein-Barr and cytomegalovirus infections, tuberculosis, and mycobacterioses. The diagnostic procedure is difficult, and it is important to consider CSDĀ as the etiology of untypical lesion.

Concepts: AIDS, Medicine, Cancer, Disease, Infectious disease, Medical terms, Infection, Cytomegalovirus


Associations between different bacteria and various tumours have been reported in patients for decades. Studies involving characterisation of bacteria within tumour tissues have traditionally been in the context of tumourigenesis as a result of bacterial presence within healthy tissues, and in general, dogma holds that such bacteria are causative agents of malignancy (directly or indirectly). While evidence suggests that this may be the case for certain tumour types and bacterial species, it is plausible that in many cases, clinical observations of bacteria within tumours arise from spontaneous infection of established tumours. Indeed, growth of bacteria specifically within tumours following deliberate systemic administration has been demonstrated for numerous bacterial species at preclinical and clinical levels. We present the available data on links between bacteria and tumours, and propose that besides the few instances in which pathogens are playing a pathogenic role in cancer, in many instances, the prevalent relationship between solid tumours and bacteria is opportunistic rather than causative, and discuss opportunities for exploiting tumour-specific bacterial growth for cancer treatment.

Concepts: Immune system, Cancer, Bacteria, Oncology, Opportunistic infection, Microbiology, Tumor, Pathogen


BACKGROUND: Information on human papillomavirus (HPV) type distribution is necessary to evaluate the potential impact of current and future HPV vaccines. We estimated the relative contribution (RC) to invasive cervical cancer (ICC) and precancerous cervical lesions of the nine HPV types (HPV 6/11/16/18/31/33/45/52/58) included in an HPV vaccine currently under development. METHODS: Estimations on ICC were based on an international study of 8,977 HPV positive cases and estimations on precancerous cervical lesions were extracted from a published meta-analysis including 115,789 HPV positive women. Globocan 2008 and 2010 World Population Prospects were used to estimate current and future projections of new ICC cases. RESULTS: RC of the 9 HPV types in ICC was 89.4%, with 18.5% of cases positive for HPV 31/33/45/52/58. Regional variations were observed. RCs varied by histology, ranging between 89.1% in squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) and 95.5% in adenocarcinomas (ADC). HPV 16/18/45 were detected in 94.2% of ADC. RC of the 9 types altogether decreased with age (trend test p < 0.0001), driven by the decrease in older ages of HPV 16/18/45. In contrast, the RC of HPV 31/33/52/58 increased with age. Due to population growth alone, projected estimates of ICC cases attributable to the 9 types are expected to rise from 493,770 new cases in 2012 to 560,887 new cases in 2025.The RCs of individual high risk HPV types varied by cytological and histological grades of HPV-positive precancerous cervical lesions, and there was an under representation of HPV 18 and 45 compared to ICC. CONCLUSIONS: The addition of HPV 31/33/45/52/58 to HPV types included in current vaccines could prevent almost 90% of ICC cases worldwide. If the nine-valent vaccine achieves the same degree of efficacy than previous vaccines, world incidence rates could be substantially reduced.

Concepts: Cancer, Human papillomavirus, Cervical cancer, Papillomavirus, HPV vaccine, Gardasil, Squamous cell carcinoma, World population