Robin A Weiss PhD, is Professor of Viral Oncology at University College London. He studied biology at UCL, and has spent most of his research career studying retroviruses, including the discovery of tumor virus genomes transmitted in a Mendelian manner in avian DNA. Robin has made significant contributions to our understanding of HIV and AIDS, which included the identification of CD4 as the cell surface receptor to which HIV binds and neutralising antibody responses to HIV and other viral infections. He has also conducted research on pig retroviruses as a potential infection hazard in xenotransplantation, and on AIDS-associated malignancies, particularly Kaposi's sarcoma and its herpesvirus. Robin was Director of Research at the Institute of Cancer Research, Royal Marsden Hospital, London, 1980-1999. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1997. He was President of the Society for General Microbiology 2006-2009.
Viruses and Cancer
Approximately 20% of the human global cancer burden is caused by infectious agents and the majority of these are commonly occurring viruses. Perhaps the best known are the papilloma viruses that are associated with cancer of the cervix in women, but liver cancer, certain other carcinomas and sarcomas as well as several types of leukemia and lymphoma, are also caused by different types of virus. We are gaining an increasing understanding of how oncogenic viruses cause malignant disease and this knowledge has provided important insights into the molecular biology of cancer in general. Cancer can be considered to be a relatively rare “side effect” of human tumor virus infection; there are multifactorial aspects of viral oncogenesis although the virus plays an essential role. The prevalence of the tumor virus and of the other co-factors help to explain why viral cancer rates vary in different parts of the world and even within different regions in Italy. Viral cancers occur more commonly in recipients of organ transplants and patients with AIDS sothe immune system normally helps to suppress the development of viral tumors. The development of vaccines against hepatitis B virus and more recently papilloma viruses are effective in preventing infection and will therefore reduce the number of viral cancers in futureyears.