Researchers say that a simple jab may soon help prevent prostate cancer.
The research team from University of Utah and University of Columbia have identified a virus, known to trigger leukaemia, in malignant human prostate cancer cells.
The research team hopes that the virus, XMRV (Xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus), would open opportunities for developing diagnostic tests, vaccines, and therapies for treating the cancer.
"We found that XMRV was present in 27 percent of prostate cancers we examined and that it was associated with more aggressive tumours," said Dr Ila R. Singh, associate professor of pathology at University of Utah and the study's senior author.
"We still don't know that this virus causes cancer in people, but that is an important question we're going to investigate," Singh added.
The study also makes it evident that XMRV is present in malignant cells, and that XMRV is a gammaretrovirus, a simple retrovirus first isolated from prostate cancers in 2006 by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and the Cleveland Clinic, known to cause cancer in animals.
During the study, the researchers examined more than 200 human prostate cancers, and compared them to more than 100 non-cancerous prostate tissues.
They found 27 percent of the cancers contained XMRV, compared to only 6 percent of the benign tissues.
The viral proteins were found almost exclusively in malignant prostatic cells, suggesting that XMRV infection may be directly linked to the formation of tumors.
The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.