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Calif Med. 1965 May;102:344-52.



The answer to the important question, "Do viruses play a role in human cancer?" is still unknown. Although many scientists think that they may play a role, straightforward attempts to isolate human tumor viruses in animals or in tissue cultures have failed. Possibly the most sensitive test object, newborn human infants, of course cannot be used as test objects, and this may explain the failure to isolate human tumor viruses. At present, it would appear that the best means of tackling the problem of viral-induced carcinogenesis is to study the basic characteristics of known tumor viruses and the basic aspects of their interactions with cells. Both RNA-containing and DNA-containing viruses, two obviously different classes of virus, can cause cancer and therefore both classes must be studied in order to obtain a complete picture of the role of viruses in causing cancer in animals and cell transformation in vitro. Such basic studies already have yielded information of great importance to general biology.A number of exciting developments have occurred in the area of virus-induced cancer. One of these is the oncogenic capacity in hamsters of certain human adenoviruses, and an intensive probe of their possible role in human cancer is in progress. Another is the detection by electron microscopy of virus-like particles in the tissues and serum of patients with leukemia. Rigid criteria have been suggested to establish etiologic significance of viruses recovered from human cancer tissues and of the virus-like particles observed by electron microscopy in serum or malignant tissues from cancer patients. If viruses are eventually found to play a role in human cancer, then perhaps the disease can be prevented by vaccines and treated with antiviral substances.

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