Viral Causes of Feline Lymphoma: Retroviruses and Beyond

Vet J. 2014 Aug;201(2):174-80. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2014.05.026. Epub 2014 May 22.


The most widely recognised cause of feline lymphoma is the gammaretrovirus feline leukaemia virus (FeLV). Research into the mechanisms of cellular transformation employed by FeLV and other oncogenic retroviruses has provided as much information on the regulation of eukaryotic cell growth and differentiation as it has about cancer. The recognition that a cancer has a viral cause opens up the possibility of novel treatments that spare the host from cytotoxic side-effects by specifically targeting the virus, or the host's immune response to it. The ultimate prize for viral-associated cancers is their prevention. Vaccination and changes in management practices have seen the global prevalence of FeLV infection fall and, with it, the incidence of FeLV-related cancers. Remarkably, in the face of this success, the prevalence of feline lymphoma remains high. At least one other virus, the lentivirus feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), accounts for some of these cases. Transformation by FIV involves incompletely understood mechanisms that are distinct from those employed by FeLV. This review will focus on the current understanding of FeLV-associated and FIV-associated lymphoma and consider whether yet more viral aetiologies could be waiting to be discovered.

Keywords: Feline; Leukaemia; Lymphoma; Retrovirus; Viral oncogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cat Diseases / virology*
  • Cats
  • Immunodeficiency Virus, Feline / physiology*
  • Lentivirus Infections / veterinary*
  • Lentivirus Infections / virology
  • Leukemia Virus, Feline / physiology*
  • Lymphoma / veterinary*
  • Lymphoma / virology
  • Retroviridae Infections / veterinary*
  • Retroviridae Infections / virology
  • Tumor Virus Infections / veterinary*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology