Recent Findings relating to Papillomaviridae (2007-2008)

Above image: an artist's illustration of genital warts caused by some strains of HPV.

Five new and hot studies relating to Papillomaviruses published between 2007-2008.


1. D’Souza, Kreimer, Viscidi, et al. “Case–Control Study of Human Papillomavirus and Oropharyngeal Cancer.” New England Journal of Medicine, 2007, 356:1944-1956.

         There has been a lot of molecular evidence suggesting an that HPV infection may be the underlying etiology for oropharyngeal cancer, but few robust epidemiological studies have sought to address an association. In this hospital-based case control study of 100 patients, the authors found that oropharyngeal cancer was strongly associated with HPV 16 oral infection, regardless of alcohol or tobacco use. Conclusion? Oral HPV infection (in particular with HPV-16) is strongly associated with oropharyngeal cancer, whether or not the individual engages in other risk behavior such as smoking.


2. Nielson, Flores, Harris et al. “Human Papillomavirus Prevalence and Type Distribution in Male Anogenital Sites and Semen.” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention 16, 1107-1114, June 1, 2007.

         Few studies have examined aspects of male infection with HPV as compared to the plethora of those considering female infection. The authors tested 463 men at six different anogenital sites as well as semen samples to detect prevalence of HPV infection. They found that when any site was considered, HPV RNA was detected in 51% of male subjects. Also, the penile shaft was found to be the test site most likely to be positive for HPV infection— indicating importance in transmission to female partners.


3.C. Fakhry, W. Westra, S. Li, A. Cmelak, J. Ridge, H. Pinto, A. Forastiere, M. Gillison. “Prognostic significance of human papillomavirus (HPV) tumor status for patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) in a prospective, multi-center phase II clinical trial.” Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2007 ASCO Annual Meeting Proceedings Part I. Vol 25, No. 18S (June 20 Supplement), 2007: 6000.

         Retrospective studies have indicated that patients with tumors in the head and neck that test HPV+, not HPV-, respond to treatment better. This study sought to examine the effect of HPV tumor status on treatment responses and survival outcomes after two rounds of chemotherapy to treat stage III or IV cancers of the pharynx or oro-pharynx. The authors found that after 39 months, patients with HPV+ tumor had a 72% lower chance of cancer progression. Conclusion? This prospective study found an improved prognosis of HPV+ tumors, which they suggest may be due to an increased sensitivity to chemotherapy interventions.


4. “Articles of Significant Interest Selected from This Issue by the Editors. A Novel Virus Exhibits Genomic Features of both the Papillomaviridae and the Polyomaviridae.” Journal of Virology, December 2007, p. 13279, Vol. 81, No. 24.

Okay… so this is a really cool article but it’s not about human viruses. It’s about a Bandicoot virus! A group led by a researcher named Woolford have described a totally new bandicoot virus that displays properties of both a papillomavirus and polyomavirus! The virus has polyoma-like large T and small T organization, but papilloma-like size (7.3 kb) with open reading frames encoding capsid proteins that are suspiciously like L1 and L2. It’s pretty neat that they’ve found this blended virus— the findings may suggest that these viral families are more closely related than was once believed.


5. Mistrya, Drobnia, Näslund et al. “The anti-papillomavirus activity of human and bovine lactoferricin.” Antiviral Research. Volume 75, Issue 3, September 2007, pgs. 258-265.

In this study, a group of Swedish scientists examined the anti-HPV effects of bovine and human lactoferricin, a compound generated by pepsin-mediated digestion of the protein lactoferrin that has been shown to have anti-viral effects. The authors showed that administering lactoferricin resulted in the inhibition of HPV-5 and HPV-16 pseudovirus infections. The authors claim that this is the first time anyone has looked at HPV and lactoferricin; a compound that may turn out to be a promising anti-viral.


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