How to flip the switch on HIV-related cancer

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Researchers have identified a critical component in the virus that causes Kaposi’s sarcoma, the most common cancer among people infected with HIV.

In this study, which appears in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Pathogens, the team identified a cluster of viral microRNA molecules that are necessary to transform healthy cells into cancerous ones. When this microRNA cluster was suppressed, the cells died after they were infected with KSHV.

Flipping the switch and turning the cluster back “on,” however, allowed the cells to stay alive and become malignant when infected with the virus.

Using advanced genomic methods, the researchers also found that the microRNAs target the IκBα protein and the NF-κB cellular pathway, both of which are associated with cancer development.

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