A deadly cancer that strikes more than a fourth of all homosexual men with AIDS may be related to a herpes virus, according to researchers who report Friday on discovery of genetic evidence of the virus.
In a study published in the journal Science, researchers led by a husband-and-wife team at Columbia University report that unique DNA sequences, or fragments of genes, were isolated from tissues of Kaposi's sarcoma lesions taken from AIDS patients and that the gene material may be from a previously unknown human herpes virus."The DNA sequences we found contain portions of at least three different genes that are unique to herpes virus," said Dr. Yuan Chang of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "The evidence strongly suggests that these DNA sequences belong to a new herpes sequence."
Finding the viral gene sequences in nearly all of the Kaposi's lesions tested raises the intriguing possibility that the same virus is the cause, or at least a contributor, to the cancer, said Chang.
Proof that a virus causes Kaposi's sarcoma could lead to developing a diagnostic test to find people susceptible to the disease and perhaps to a drug that would kill the virus and thus prevent the cancer.
Chang's husband, Dr. Patrick Moore of the Columbia University School of Public Health, said Kaposi's sarcoma was a rare cancer, usually seen only in elderly men of eastern Mediterranean ancestry, until the AIDS epidemic.