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Cancer Res. 2008 Oct 1;68(19):7693-706. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-3301.

The history of tumor virology.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Virology and Microbiology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA. rjavier@bcm.edu

Abstract

In the century since its inception, the field of tumor virology has provided groundbreaking insights into the causes of human cancer. Peyton Rous founded this scientific field in 1911 by discovering an avian virus that induced tumors in chickens; however, it took 40 years for the scientific community to comprehend the effect of this seminal finding. Later identification of mammalian tumor viruses in the 1930s by Richard Shope and John Bittner, and in the 1950s by Ludwik Gross, sparked the first intense interest in tumor virology by suggesting the possibility of a similar causal role for viruses in human cancers. This change in attitude opened the door in the 1960s and 1970s for the discovery of the first human tumor viruses--EBV, hepatitis B virus, and the papillomaviruses. Such knowledge proved instrumental to the development of the first cancer vaccines against cancers having an infectious etiology. Tumor virologists additionally recognized that viruses could serve as powerful discovery tools, leading to revolutionary breakthroughs in the 1970s and 1980s that included the concept of the oncogene, the identification of the p53 tumor suppressor, and the function of the retinoblastoma tumor suppressor. The subsequent availability of more advanced molecular technologies paved the way in the 1980s and 1990s for the identification of additional human tumor viruses--human T-cell leukemia virus type 1, hepatitis C virus, and Kaposi's sarcoma virus. In fact, current estimates suggest that viruses are involved in 15% to 20% of human cancers worldwide. Thus, viruses not only have been shown to represent etiologic agents for many human cancers but have also served as tools to reveal mechanisms that are involved in all human malignancies. This rich history promises that tumor virology will continue to contribute to our understanding of cancer and to the development of new therapeutic and preventive measures for this disease in the 21st century.

PMID:
18829521
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3501656
Free PMC Article

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