Viral and cellular oncogenes promote immune evasion

Oncogene. 2022 Feb;41(7):921-929. doi: 10.1038/s41388-021-02145-1. Epub 2022 Jan 13.


Thirteen percent of cancers worldwide are associated with viral infections. While many human oncogenic viruses are widely endemic, very few infected individuals develop cancer. This raises the question why oncogenic viruses encode viral oncogenes if they can replicate and spread between human hosts without causing cancer. Interestingly, viral infection triggers innate immune signaling pathways that in turn activate tumor suppressors such as p53, suggesting that tumor suppressors may have evolved not primarily to prevent cancer, but to thwart viral infection. Here, we summarize and compare several major immune evasion strategies used by viral and non-viral cancers, with a focus on oncogenes that play dual roles in promoting tumorigenicity and immune evasion. By highlighting important and illustrative examples of how oncogenic viruses evade the immune system, we aim to shed light on how non-viral cancers avoid immune detection. Further study and understanding of how viral and non-viral oncogenes impact immune function could lead to improved strategies to combine molecular therapies targeting oncoproteins in combination with immunomodulators.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Oncogenes*