Young Women Infected with Epstein-Barr Virus May Be Predisposed to Breast Cancer

Young Women Infected with Epstein-Barr Virus May Be Predisposed to Breast Cancer
Infection with one of the most common viruses in humans, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), may predispose women to develop breast cancer, according to Harvard Medical School researchers. Their study, "Epstein–Barr Virus Infection of Mammary Epithelial Cells Promotes Malignant Transformation," published in EBioMedicine, may have important implications in the prevention of breast cancer. EVB, usually known as the cause of mononucleosis, is one of the eight known herpes viruses that can infect humans. Although most individuals do not exhibit any symptoms from the infection, more than 90 percent of the world's population is estimated to carry EBV. EVB infection has been linked to a number of cancers, including Hodgkin's disease, African Burkitt lymphoma, nasopharingeal carcinoma, gastric adenocarcinoma, and leiomyosarcoma. Several studies have also reported an association between EBV infection and breast cancer development, but EBV's role in breast cancer development and/or progression was not known. Researchers addressed this question by culturing breast cells called primary epithelial cells (MECs) in the presence of EBV. They found that EBV can infect MECs by binding to the CD21 receptor that is expressed at the surface of normal breast cells, but not in breast cancer cells. After infecting the cell, the virus induces a series of changes that render stem-like properties to the cells, which allows them to keep dividing. When the EBV-infected MECs were implanted in mice, EVB infection induced the activation of signaling pathways involved in tumor formation, accelerating the deve
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