Viruses in cancers among the immunosuppressed

Int J Cancer. 2017 Dec 15;141(12):2498-2504. doi: 10.1002/ijc.31017. Epub 2017 Sep 13.


Most cancer forms known to be caused by viruses are increased among the immunosuppressed, but several cancer forms without established viral etiology are also increased, notably nonmelanoma skin carcinoma (NMSC). We followed all 13,429 solid organ transplantation patients in Sweden for cancer occurrence after transplantation. We requested these tumor specimens and sequenced the first 89 specimens received (62 NMSCs, 27 other cancers). The sequences were analyzed for viruses based on two bioinformatics algorithms (paracel-blast (sensitive for detection of known viruses) and hidden Markov model (HMM; sensitive for distantly related viruses)). Among the 62 NMSCs, the virus family detected in the largest proportion of specimens was Mimiviridae (9/62 NMSCs). The majority of the virus-related reads belonged to Papillomaviridae. The HMM analysis identified 86 additional previously not described viral contigs related to 11 virus families, with reads related to Mimiviridae being the most common (detected in 28/62 NMSCs) with the most prevalent contig (Mimivirus SE906, 1937 bp) detected in 17/62 NMSCs. Among the 27 other cancers, viral sequences were detected in only 5 specimens by blast analysis, compared to in all 27 specimens by HMM (Mimiviridae, Poxviridae, Phycodnaviridae and virus-related sequences yet unclassified to any family). 99% of the virus reads belonged to a single previously not described sequence (Mimivirus SE996, 911 bp). A multitude of viruses is readily detectable in specimens with cancers occurring among the immunosuppressed, with sequences related to Mimiviridae being the most prevalent. Further research would be needed to elucidate the biological significance of the viruses.

Keywords: immunosuppression; metagenomic sequencing; nonmelanoma skin cancer; tumor virology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Markov Chains
  • Mimiviridae / genetics
  • Mimiviridae / isolation & purification
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / virology
  • Organ Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA / methods*
  • Sweden
  • Virus Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Viruses / classification*
  • Viruses / genetics