Papers presented at the 1st European Lung Cancer Conference demonstrate that common viruses may play a role in the development of lung cancer. While smoking is the leading risk factor in developing lung cancer, other factors do play a role including radon, mineral dust exposure and now exposure to certain viruses.
Dr. Arash Rezazadeh and colleagues from the University of Louisville, Kentucky, USA, presented an article that described the results of a study on 23 lung cancer samples from patients in Kentucky.
The researchers found six samples that tested positive for the presence of human papilloma virus (HPV), the virus that also causes many cases of cervical cancer. One was later shown to be a cervical cancer that had spread to the lungs. Of the remaining 5 virus-positive samples, two were HPV type 16, two were HPV type 11 and one was HPV type 22.
All subjects were smokers. However, evidence that 6 of 23 should evidence of HPV would warrant a larger sample and further investigation to determine the role HPV may have in the development of lung cancer. Further, samples should be taken from subjects who have never smoked or been subjected to other common risk factors.
A second paper by Israeli researchers suggests that measles virus may also be a factor in some lung cancers. Their study included 65 patients with non-small-cell lung cancer, of whom more than half had evidence of measles virus in tissue samples taken from their tumors. The lead author, Prof. Samuel Ariad from Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva, Israel suggests that measles is most likely acts in modifying the effect of other carcinogens and not as a causative factor by itself.