Viruses millions of years old in our DNA offer new hope in cancer research

Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London found that dormant remnants of these ancient viruses become active when cancer cells multiply. So the immune system inadvertently reaches out to attack the tumor.

Scientists have found a link between a better survival rate in lung cancer and so-called B cells that cluster around cancer cells. B cells play an important role in the immune system: they are responsible for the production of antibodies and are therefore essential for fighting infections, such as Covid.

What B cells actually did in lung cancer was a mystery. However, a series of experiments on human samples and animal tests showed that they are still trying to fight viruses here as well.


Professor Julian Downward of the Francis Crick Institute explains to the BBC It is suggested that the antibodies recognize remnants of so-called endogenous retroviruses. (Fun fact: More than eight percent of what we consider our “human” DNA is viral in origin, and some of these retroviruses are millions of years old.)

The researchers said that retroviruses have the ability to embed a copy of their genetic instructions into our DNA. In cancer cells, these old viruses lose control. While these ancient genetic instructions cannot revive entire viruses, they can create virus fragments. Sufficient for the immune system to recognize viral threats.

Professor George Kasiotis of the Francis Crick Institute describes it as a kind of “alarm system”. “The immune system is tricked into thinking the cancer cells are infected and then tries to kill the virus.” Instead, it kills cancer cells.

The team wants to use this discovery to develop vaccines that teach the body how to catch endogenous retroviruses. If successful, it would open the door not only to vaccines that could enhance cancer treatment, but also to preventive vaccines, it seems hopeful.

See also  A mixture of viruses such as SARS-CoV2 has now also been found in Laos

Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *