Oncoviruses have been implicated to cause 17.8% of human cancers.
Kathleen Ruddy, MD
Oncoviruses have been implicated to cause 17.8% of human cancers.1This class of cancer-linked viruses includes human papilloma virus (HPV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), hepatitis B and C viruses, (HBV, HCV), human herpes virus 8 (HHV 8), and human T-lymphotrophic virus-1 (HTLV-1).
Gardasil and Cervarix, two HPV vaccines, are the first and only prophylactic antiviral vaccines approved for administration to HPV-naïve females and males to prevent cancer. In addition to cervical cancer prevention, the vaccination is also advocated as a cost-effective strategy to prevent oropharyngeal cancer.2
Another virus, mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV), has been linked to breast cancer etiology, although the contribution of virus infection to initiation and promotion of mammary carcinogenesis remains contentious. Since 1936, when Joseph Bittner identified a filterable extrachromosomal factor that led to development of breast cancer in mice, numerous studies have reported an association of MMTV and breast cancer. Conversely, an equal number of studies found no evidence of such a link based on two major observations: inability to detect by many labs and lack of known human tissue receptors. After a lag in the field, interest in viral etiology of breast cancer was rekindled; however, in the 1990s, multiple groups used PCR and reported the presence of sequences resembling MMTV in patients with breast cancer.
Kathleen Ruddy, MD, president of the Breast Health & Healing Foundation is a strong advocate of reviving research efforts in the dwindling field of breast cancer viral pathogenesis. According to Ruddy, there is an urgent requirement to develop preventive prophylactic MMTV vaccines for breast cancer on the lines of HPV vaccine. “If there’s a virus that causes breast cancer, and a safe and effective vaccine that can prevent this disease, we need to know about it now, not in another 100 years,” said Ruddy.
In her new book, “OF MICE AND WOMEN: Unraveling the Mystery of The Breast Cancer Virus,”3Ruddy has compiled important studies over the past decade that support a role of MMTV in causing breast cancer. She documents these studies in chapters that discuss important milestones in the field: recording the birth of the research field in early 1900, slow adoption of the idea by the scientific community, a sudden surge of funding, and finally, the loss of interest by the research field. She hopes to rekindle interest in the field again and to promote robust funding and ultimately the development of preventive vaccine. This is part of her overall commitment to help women with breast cancer.
Kathleen Ruddy is a breast cancer surgeon trained at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. She was founder and medical director of the Breast Service for Barnabas Health (Clara Maass Medical Center: 1995-2005). Ruddy received her International Masters in Health Leadership from McGill University (2008). She is the founder of the Breast Health & Healing Foundation (2008) whose mission is “to discover the specific causes of breast cancer and to use that knowledge to prevent the disease.” Ruddy is also an esteemed member of the Leadership Council of the Harvard School of Public Health. Ruddy is presently working on a full-length documentary film about the breast cancer virus and the world’s first preventive breast cancer vaccine developed at the Cleveland Clinic in 2010.