The Household Physician
Cancer find raises hope for vaccine
Update: Canadian Doctor Discovers Possible Low Cost Cancer Cure
By MARTIN JOHNSTON health reporter
A New Zealand-led study has uncovered a link between breast cancer and a
common virus, raising hopes of a vaccine for the leading cause of cancer
deaths among New Zealand women.
Scientists in Europe and the United States are already working on
experimental vaccines to protect against the virus, called
CMV is spread by bodily fluids, including breast milk, saliva and semen.
Related to the herpes and chickenpox viruses, it is usually without
symptoms in young children, but in adults can cause glandular fever, an
illness characterised by fever, tiredness and swollen lymph glands.
A study by Otago and Melbourne Universities is the first to link the
virus to breast cancer.
Each year more than 2000 New Zealand women are diagnosed with breast
cancer and around 650 die from it.
The Otago and Melbourne study suggests women infected by the virus in
adulthood are at higher risk of developing breast cancer than those
exposed as children.
Other viruses have been tentatively linked to breast cancer and viral
causes of liver and cervical cancers are well established.
International trials are under way of vaccines targeting the viruses
that cause most cervical cancer and a vaccine is in use against one of
the liver cancer viruses.
"The most exciting possibility would be, if that were the case, maybe
further down the track somebody could develop a vaccine," said the lead
researcher, Dr Ann Richardson, of Otago University's Christchurch School
of Medicine and Health Sciences.
"It could be given to young children and it would protect people against
being exposed late in life because they already would have developed
antibodies when they were young."
Cancer Society medical director Dr Peter Dady, a cancer physician, said
the findings were exciting because they showed the significance of
While not proving that CMV caused breast cancer, the study strengthened
the theory. If proven, this could lead to the development of a vaccine
to knock out one pathway to breast cancer, he said.
The study tested blood samples from 377 women aged under 40.
Antibodies to CMV - indicating previous exposure - were 22 per cent
higher on average in women with breast cancer than in those without it.
Dr Richardson said this suggested the women with breast cancer were
infected with the virus more recently than the others.
Breast cancer rates are higher in the West than in developing countries.
But the West has lower rates of infection with CMV, at 60 to 70 per cent
The Cancer Society, which helped finance the study, and the Breast
Cancer Foundation welcomed the findings. "It's a very interesting
association, but I think it would need further study to ratify it," said
the foundation's medical committee chairwoman, Dr Belinda Scott, a
New Zealand-led research links breast cancer to a virus called
Women with breast cancer have higher levels of antibodies to the virus.
This suggests viral infection as an adult, but not as a child, may be
risk factor for breast cancer.
Development work under way on a vaccine against the virus.
Herald Feature: Health
Related information and links
Canadian Doctor Discovers Possible Low Cost Cancer Cure
"Tibetan incense, medicinal powder, and Tibetan 'precious pills' are in
great demand here," said one police officer who asked not to be named.
"People believe that it can prevent the virus. And SARS hasn't spread to Tibet."
Radio Free Asia-May 7, 2003
Handbook of Traditional Tibetan Drugs: Their Nomenclature,Composition, Use and Dosage
Return to JCROWS.com
" I believe the doctor of the future will be a teacher
as well as a physician.
His real job will be to teach people how to be healthy." Dr. D.C. Jarvis