Cross-border collaboration on infectiology and cancer

23 Jan 2009

The link between certain viruses and cancer onset, recently highlighted by the 2008 Nobel Prize for Medicine award, will be central to the European congress held by the Lyon Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Cancer Research Cluster (CLARA), 23-24 January 2009 at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon. It will bring together specialists from two international research facilities – the IARC and the Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (DFKZ) in Germany – as well as two French research clusters, the Canceropole Grand-Est (CGE) and CLARA.

The event will gather many virologists to address the role of infectious agents in cancer onset. The meeting is intended to pool the efforts of research institutes and networks in order to more quickly achieve their shared objectives: Improved diagnosis and treatment, and the prevention of virus-induced cancers.

This initiative of the Lyon Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Cancer Research Cluster (CLARA) is taking place thanks to the coordinated efforts of two international research centres –the IARC and Germany's Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum (DFKZ) – together with two French cancer research clusters.

The multi-agency meeting features a full range of competencies that spans the discipline: While the CGE cluster and the DKFZ focus on the human papillomavirus (see below), CLARA is dedicated to all infections associated with cancer in humans.

The meeting will address the following main topics:

- virus-induced cancer diagnosis and therapy;

- molecular mechanisms in carcinogenesis;

- viral strategies to escape immune response.


Infections and cancer: A major research avenue for prevention

Roughly 20% of cancers worldwide are induced by infectious agents. This proportion is even higher in low-resource countries, as the socio-economic context makes infectious conditions more widespread. As part of its epidemiological and biological studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified six viruses associated with the origin of certain types of cancer: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV); Kaposi sarcoma associated herpesvirus / human herpesvirus 8 (KSHV/HHV8); human papillomavirus (HPV); hepatitis B virus (HBV); hepatitis C virus (HCV); and human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1), as well as the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori).

HPVs are high-risk etiological agents in the cervix, responsible for about 5% of all virus-induced cancers. Every year, they cause the death of about 250,000 women worldwide, most of whom live in low-resource countries.

A new infectious agent was recently isolated: the human polyomavirus (MCV), which appears to be associated with a rare tumour, Merkel cell carcinoma.

Viruses are widespread in the population, and persistent (chronic) infection affecting a minority of individuals causes cancer to develop. As yet, little is known about infection persistence factors, and identifying them is key to preventing the disease.

The collaboration of the leading actors in this field is therefore acquiring crucial importance, and the Joint Meeting on Infections and Cancer on 23-24 January 2009 is a vehicle for its operational implementation.



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