HPV has been found to increase risk of cervical, head and neck and anal cancers among others but until now, scientists had not been able to find out how exactly the virus affects the cells. Now researchers have found that when the virus inserts its DNA into the human DNA, it damages the chromosomes and genes around the area of insertion.
Researchers led by Dr David Symer examined 10 cancer-cell lines and two head and neck tumor samples from patients and made use of whole-genome sequencing and several molecular assays, including RNA sequencing, spectral karyotyping (SKY) and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). The study has been published in the journal Genome Research.
"HPV can act like a tornado hitting the genome, disrupting and rearranging nearby host-cell genes. This can lead to overexpression of cancer-causing genes in some cases, or it can disrupt protective tumor-suppressor genes in others. Both kinds of damage likely promote the development of cancer", Symer said.