The link between HPV and skin cancer
21 June 2017
A collaboration between the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute and the University of Eastern Piedmont, Novara, has shed new light on the relationship between the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and the development of skin lesions, such as actinic keratosis and squamous cell carcinoma.
There are lots of factors involved in the development of skin lesions and skin cancer. Exposure to the sun is one of the main causes, but another one seems to be the beta Human Papillomavirus Infection.
Beta HPV is ubiquitous in the human population but, in most cases, it doesn’t cause any problems. However, previous research has shown that a low immune system can activate the virus and, for patients with a compromised immune system (such as those receiving organ transplants), there is a known link between activation of the virus and the development of skin lesions.
Using a transgenic mouse model, this research project set out to further understand this link between skin lesions and the HPV virus.
Dr Simone Lanfredini, a Research Associate at the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute explained,
“We knew that the reservoir of the virus is held in the hair follicle, but we didn’t know exactly where, so our first step was to investigate and characterise the stem cells present in the follicle of the HPV8 transgenic mouse model.”
Dr. Carlotta Olivero, who holds a postdoctorate position at the University of Eastern Piedmont Italy and is currently a visiting researcher at the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute, added
“We found that the virus targets a specific population of stem cells (identified as Lrig1), causing them to proliferate out of the follicle to the surface of the skin. This makes the stem cells more susceptible to UV damage, and leads, in many cases, to the development of skin lesions.”
Dr Girish Patel, an Honorary Lecturer specialising in skin cancer research, praised the collaborative nature of the project.
“This important piece of research came about as a result of a close collaboration between my team at the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute and a team of researchers led by Professor Marisa Gariglio at the University of Eastern Piedmont in Italy.
By combining our knowledge of stem cells with their expertise in virology we were able, for the first time, to successfully identify where in the follicle the HPV virus should replicate. Based on previous HPV studies, we are hopeful that, in the future, these findings could potentially be translated to human models, opening up avenues for more effective prevention of skin lesions in patients with lowered immunity.”
The research paper, ‘HPV8 Field Cancerization in a Transgenic Mouse Model is due to Lrig1+ Keratinocyte Stem Cell Expansion’, has been published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.