In addition to genetic mutations and environmental toxins, viral infections remain one of the few known causes of cancer. The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is an oncogenic, herpesvirus that is associated with solid tumors and lymphoproliferative disorders including Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin lymphomas.
People infected with HIV are at increased risk of developing cancer, many of which are driven by viruses like EBV and are associated with poor outcomes. The high incidence of EBV-driven cancers in HIV-infected patients is almost certainly related to a blunted EBV-specific immune response.
Funded by the National Cancer Institute, The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute and Addis Ababa University (AAU) in Ethiopia have focused on developing strategies to “boost” immunity to treat and/or prevent EBV-driven cancers in patients with immune deficiency. Researchers have developed animal models that closely mimic EBV-driven cancers, methods to deliver EBV vaccines, partnerships with industry to produce preventive vaccines for EBV and an innovative approach to identify individuals who are at risk for developing EBV-driven cancers.
The partnership with the Global One Health initiative and collaborators at AAU proposes to (1) test the immunogenicity of EBV target vaccine proteins; and (2) perform molecular epidemiological studies evaluating individuals who may be at highest risk for developing EBV-driven cancers. Ultimately, this work will lead to the design of clinical trials delivering EBV vaccines to individuals in the United States and Ethiopia to prevent EBV-driven cancers.