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Study Determines Why Patients With HIV Have Higher Rates of Cancer

Alison Rodriguez
After investigating why patients with HIV have higher rates of cancer than the general population, researchers identified how T-cells move and multiply to invade other cells in these patients.
Patients with AIDS face an increased risk of suffering from cancer due to the fewer T-cells in their bodies. Now, after investigating why patients with HIV have higher rates of cancer than the general population, researchers identified how T-cells move and multiply to invade other cells in these patients.

In the study, published by Nature, the researchers evaluated more aggressive cells in head and neck cancer cases that were related to 18 patients with HIV. They found that exosomes, which are derived from HIV-1-infected T-cells, are active in altering the growth and spread of cancer cells in patients with HIV. The researchers explained that cancer and stromal cell exosomes can modify the tumor microenvironment and immune response that favor cancer progression.

“People living with HIV/AIDS on antiretroviral therapy have increased risk of non-AIDS-defining cancers (NADCs). However, the underlying mechanism for development and progression of certain NADCs remains obscure,” explained the researchers. “Here we show that exosomes released from HIV-infected T cells and those purified from blood of HIV-positive patients stimulate proliferation, migration and invasion of oral/oropharyngeal and lung cancer cells.”

According to the study, exosomes promote proliferation, migration, and invasion of cancer cells and can stimulate cancer growth. This result is important not just because of the increased risk of cancer among patients with HIV, but also because of their increased risk of dying from cancer than uninfected individuals with the same cancers.

“The cells in question release exosomes into the blood stream—think small nanoparticles—that don’t cause cancer, but they support it,” Ge Jin, associate professor of biological sciences at the School of Dental Medicine, and the study’s author and principal investigator, said in a recent press release. “In other words, the cancer grows faster and more aggressively in patients with HIV.”

The researchers concluded that these findings and the role of exosomes represent a new area of research for non-AIDS-defining cancers in the future.

 
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