Viral Oncogenesis and Host Defense

Craig Meyers, Ph.D., Program Leader

A major theme of the Cancer Virology and Immunology (CVI) Program is the relationships between viruses and human cancers.  Viruses are among the most carcinogens known accounting for over 15% of all human cancers.  Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and some human papillomaviruses have been classified as human carcinogens by the Department of Health and Human Services.  It is anticipated that other human viruses will soon be added to the list.  In addition, viruses that play no etiological role in human cancer can be used to treat cancer either by direct killing of tumor cells or serving as vectors to target death to tumor cells.  Members of the CVI Program study numerous viruses associated with human cancers with the long-range goals of (1) understanding all aspects of the viral life cycle and natural history, (2) understanding the assembly of the viral particle, (3) understanding the structure-function relationship of the viral particle, how it relates to particle stability, attachment, infectivity, and immune recognition, (4) designing novel therapeutic agents that target critical steps in the viral life cycles, thereby blocking viral replication and viral oncogenesis, and (5) using viruses to kill cancer cells.

Another theme of the CVI Program is immunology and cancer.  Novel immunotherapeutic strategies for the prevention and treatment of a range of human cancers are growing in importance.  Members of the CVI Program are carrying out research in the field of immunology related cancer at the basic and translational levels.


The scientific aims of the CVI Program are:


Aim 1:  To understand the life cycle and natural history of oncogenesis viruses.


Aim 2: To reduce the incidence of human cancers that have a viral etiology. 


Aim 3: To develop virus-based and immunological approaches for treating human cancer.


Aim 4: To monitor immune responses in cancer patients undergoing therapy.


The CVI programmatic themes of immunology of cancer, and viral mediated tumor killing share the common goal of discovering new strategies for cancer prevention and treatment.  The faculty includes basic scientists as well as physician scientists from the College of Medicine in Hershey and from the University Park campus.  A unique aspect of the CVI Program is the combined strength of research in the fields of virology and immunology as they relate to human cancer and hence the enormous translational potential that can be realized in the synergy of the research areas.

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