Polyomaviruses May Raise Risk of Skin Cancer In Patients of Risk of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Anala Gossai BSc, MPH PhD candidate
Department of Epidemiology
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire
and co-authors

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Gossai et al: Polyomaviruses (PyV) are potentially tumorigenic viruses in humans. However, limited data exists on the population seroprevalence or longitudinal serostability of PyVs, and individual characteristics that relate to seropositivity. Further, PyVs may be associated with the occurrence of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) – one of the most common malignancies in humans with increasing incidence reported in the US.

In a US nested case-control study, BK and JC seroreactivity was measured on 113 SCC cases and 229 matched controls who had a prior keratinocyte cancer. Repeated serum samples from controls, and both pre- and post-diagnosis samples from a subset ofsquamous cell carcinoma cases, were also assayed. Antibody response against each PyV type was measured using multiplex serology of recombinantly expressed VP1 capsid proteins. Among controls, BK and JC seroreactivity was stable over time, and there was little evidence of seroconversion following SCC diagnosis among cases. Odds of squamous cell carcinoma  associated with seropositivity to each PyV type were estimated using conditional logistic regression. JC seropositivity prior to diagnosis was associated with an elevated risk of SCC (OR=2.5, 95% CI: 1.2-5.2). 

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? 

Gossai et al: There are no specific clinician or patient recommendations at this time. Our research suggests that a history of JC virus infection may increase risk of subsequent squamous cell carcinoma  in a population with a prior keratinocyte carcinoma diagnosis. Our study also suggests a single measure of BK and JC PyV seroreactivity appears a reliable indicator of long-term antibody status.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Gossai et al: We performed a preliminary study that investigated the association between pre-diagnostic antibody levels against BK and JC, and risk of subsequent SCC, in a study population at high risk for keratinocyte cancers. Confirmation of these results in other populations is needed, as well as additional investigation of newly discovered PyVs.


Gossai, Anala, Tim Waterboer, Heather H. Nelson, Jennifer A. Doherty, Angelika Michel, Martina Willhauck-Fleckenstein, Shohreh F. Farzan et al. “Prospective study of human polyomaviruses and risk of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma in the United States.” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention (2016): cebp-1111.

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