Virus Infection and Human Cancer: An Overview

  • John T. SchillerEmail author
  • Douglas R. Lowy
Part of the Recent Results in Cancer Research book series (RECENTCANCER, volume 193)


It is now estimated that approximately 10 % of worldwide cancers are attributable to viral infection, with the vast majority (>85 %) occurring in the developing world. Oncogenic viruses include various classes of DNA and RNA viruses and induce cancer by a variety of mechanisms. A unifying theme is that cancer develops in a minority of infected individuals and only after chronic infection of many years duration. The viruses associated with the greatest number of cancer cases are the human papillomaviruses (HPVs), which cause cervical cancer and several other epithelial malignancies, and the hepatitis viruses HBV and HCV, which are responsible for the majority of hepatocellular cancer. Other oncoviruses include Epstein–Barr virus (EBV), Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus (KSHV), human T-cell leukemia virus (HTLV-I), and Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV). Identification of the infectious cause has led to several interventions that may reduce the risk of developing these tumors. These include preventive vaccines against HBV and HPV, HPV-based testing for cervical cancer screening, anti-virals for the treatment of chronic HBV and HCV infection, and screening the blood supply for the presence of HBV and HCV. Successful efforts to identify additional oncogenic viruses in human cancer may lead to further insight into etiology and pathogenesis as well as to new approaches for therapeutic and prophylactic intervention.


Merkel Cell Carcinoma Worldwide Cancer Human Tumor Virus Viral Nucleic Acid Sequence Normal Viral Life Cycle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Alison MR, Nicholson LJ, Lin WR (2011) Chronic inflammation and hepatocellular carcinoma. Recent Results Cancer Res 185:135–148PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arora R, Chang Y, More PS (2012) MCV and Merkel cell carcinoma: a molecular success story. Curr Opin Virol 2(4):489–498PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brotherton JM, Fridman M, May CL et al (2011) Early effect of the HPV vaccination programme on cervical abnormalities in Victoria, Australia: an ecological study. Lancet 377(9783):2085–2092PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Butel JS, Fan H (2012) The diversity of human cancer viruses. Curr Opin Virol 2(4):449–452PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chang MH, You SL, Chen CJ et al (2009) Decreased incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma in hepatitis B vaccinees: a 20-year follow-up study. J Natl Cancer Inst 101(19):1348–1355PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chang Y, Cesarman E, Pessin MS et al (1994) Identification of herpesvirus-like DNA sequences in AIDS-associated Kaposi’s sarcoma. Science 266(5192):1865–1869PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chaturvedi AK (2012) Epidemiology and clinical aspects of HPV in head and neck cancers. Head Neck Pathol 6(Suppl 1):S16–S24PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chaturvedi AK, Engels EA, Pfeiffer RM et al (2011) Human papillomavirus and rising oropharyngeal cancer incidence in the United States. J Clin Oncol 29(32):4294–4301PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Choo QL, Kuo G, Weiner AJ et al (1989) Isolation of a cDNA clone derived from a blood-borne non-A, non-B viral hepatitis genome. Science 244(4902):359–362PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clifford GM, Franceschi S (2009) Cancer risk in HIV-infected persons: influence of CD4(+) count. Future Oncol 5(5):669–678PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dane DS, Cameron CH, Briggs M et al (1970) Virus-like particles in serum of patients with Australia-antigen-associated hepatitis. Lancet 1(7649):695–698PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. de Martel C, Ferlay J, Franceschi S et al (2012) Global burden of cancers attributable to infections in 2008: a review and synthetic analysis. Lancet Oncol 13(6):607–615PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dürst M, Gissmann L, Ikenberg H et al (1983) A papillomavirus DNA from a cervical carcinoma and its prevalence in cancer biopsy samples from different geographic regions. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 80:3812–3815PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. El-Serag HB (2012) Epidemiology of viral hepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Gastroenterology 142(6):1264–1273 e1261Google Scholar
  15. Epstein MA, Achong BG, Barr YM et al (1964) Virus particles in cultured lymphoblasts from Burkitt’s lymphoma. Lancet 1(7335):702–703PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fan H, Johnson C (2011) Insertional oncogenesis by non-acute retroviruses: implications for gene therapy. Viruses 3(4):398–422PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Feinstone SM, Hu DJ, Major ME (2012) Prospects for prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines against hepatitis C virus. Clin Infect Dis 55(Suppl 1):S25–S32PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Feng H, Shuda M, Chang Y et al (2008) Clonal integration of a polyomavirus in human Merkel cell carcinoma. Science 319(5866):1096–1100PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gallo RC (2011) Research and discovery of the first human cancer virus, HTLV-1. Best Pract Res Clin Haematol 24(4):559–565PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gantt S, Casper C (2011) Human herpesvirus 8-associated neoplasms: the roles of viral replication and antiviral treatment. Curr Opin Infect Dis 24(4):295–301PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gillison ML (2008) Human papillomavirus-related diseases: oropharynx cancers and potential implications for adolescent HPV vaccination. J Adolesc Health 43(4 Suppl):S52–S60PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hill A (1971) Statistical evidence and inference. Principles of medical statistics, 9th edn. Oxford University Press, New York, pp 309–323Google Scholar
  23. Howley PM, Livingston DM (2009) Small DNA tumor viruses: large contributors to biomedical sciences. Virology 384(2):256–259PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kutok JL, Wang F (2006) Spectrum of Epstein-Barr virus-associated diseases. Annu Rev Pathol 1:375–404PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lizardi PM, Forloni M, Wajapeyee N (2011) Genome-wide approaches for cancer gene discovery. Trends Biotechnol 29(11):558–568PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Magrath I (2012) Epidemiology: clues to the pathogenesis of Burkitt lymphoma. Br J Haematol 156(6):744–756PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mesri E, Cesarman E, Boshoff C (2010) Kaposi’s sarcoma and its associated herpesvirus. Nat Rev Cancer 10(10):707–719PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Parkin DM (2006) The global health burden of infection-associated cancers in the year 2002. Int J Cancer 118(12):3030–3044PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Poiesz BJ, Ruscetti FW, Mier JW et al (1980) Detection and isolation of type C retrovirus particles from fresh and cultured lymphocytes of a patient with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 77(12):7415–7419PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Poordad F, Dieterich D (2012) Treating hepatitis C: current standard of care and emerging direct-acting antiviral agents. J Viral Hepat 19(7):449–464PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Raab-Traub N (2012) Novel mechanisms of EBV-induced oncogenesis. Curr Opin Virol 2(4):453–458PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rama I, Grinyo JM (2010) Malignancy after renal transplantation: the role of immunosuppression. Nat Rev Nephrol 6(9):511–519PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Romano G, Marino IR, Pentimalli F et al (2009) Insertional mutagenesis and development of malignancies induced by integrating gene delivery systems: implications for the design of safer gene-based interventions in patients. Drug News Perspect 22(4):185–196PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Ruff AJ (1994) Breastmilk, breastfeeding, and transmission of viruses to the neonate. Semin Perinatol 18(6):510–516PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Saha A, Robertson ES (2011) Epstein-Barr virus-associated B-cell lymphomas: pathogenesis and clinical outcomes. Clin Cancer Res 17(10):3056–3063PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Saslow D, Solomon D, Lawson HW et al (2012) American Cancer Society, American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and American Society for Clinical Pathology screening guidelines for the prevention and early detection of cervical cancer. CA Cancer J Clin 62(3):147–172PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schiffman M, Wentzensen N, Wacholder S et al (2011) Human papillomavirus testing in the prevention of cervical cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 103(5):368–383PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schiller JT, Buck CB (2011) Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma: a smoking gun but still no suspects. J Invest Dermatol 131(8):1595–1596PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schiller JT, Lowy DR (2010) Vaccines to prevent infections by oncoviruses. Annu Rev Microbiol 64:23–41PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schiller JT, Lowy DR (2012) Understanding and learning from the success of prophylactic human papillomavirus vaccines. Nat Rev Microbiol 10(10):681–692PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Shiels MS, Pfeiffer RM, Gail MH et al (2011) Cancer burden in the HIV-infected population in the United States.”. J Natl Cancer Inst 103(9):753–762PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Smith BD, Jorgensen C, Zibbell JE et al (2012) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiatives to prevent hepatitis C virus infection: a selective update. Clin Infect Dis 55(Suppl 1):S49–S53PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sutcliffe S (2010) Sexually transmitted infections and risk of prostate cancer: review of historical and emerging hypotheses. Future Oncol 6(8):1289–1311PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Uldrick TS, Whitby D (2011) Update on KSHV epidemiology, Kaposi Sarcoma pathogenesis, and treatment of Kaposi Sarcoma. Cancer Lett 305(2):150–162PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Vinokurova S, Wentzensen N, Kraus I et al (2008) Type-dependent integration frequency of human papillomavirus genomes in cervical lesions. Cancer Res 68(1):307–313PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wu TT, Blackman MA, Sun R (2010) Prospects of a novel vaccination strategy for human gamma-herpesviruses. Immunol Res 48(1–3):122–146PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. zur Hausen H (2009) Childhood leukemia’s and other hematopoietic malignancies: interdependence between an infectious event and chromosomal modifications. Int J Cancer 125(8):1764–1770PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. zur Hausen H (2012) Red meat consumption and cancer: reasons to suspect involvement of bovine infectious factors in colorectal cancer. Int J Cancer 130(11):2475–2483PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Cellular Oncology, Center for Cancer ResearchNational Cancer InstituteBethesdaUSA

Personalised recommendations