New Virus Linked to Virulent Skin Cancer

Genome analysis helps make the connection
By Zach Samalin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2008 1:55 PM CST
Scientists have linked a previously unknown polyoma virus to Merkel cell carcinoma, a virulent form of skin cancer that primarily affects sun-exposed parts of the body.   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – A new virus has been linked with a rare but particularly aggressive form of skin cancer that affects as many as 1,200 Americans a year. Scientists have yet to definitively prove a causal relationship between the newly discovered polyoma virus and Merkel cell carcinoma, but evidence strongly suggests that they soon will, the New York Times reports. 

“We can say we have a culprit with the smoking gun at the scene of the crime, but that still doesn’t mean he’s guilty,” said Patrick Moore, who led the study. In 1994, Moore and his wife, Yuan Cheng, proved a causal link between herpes virus 8 and Kaposi's sarcoma. The doctors' new findings relied heavily on techniques drawn from the human genome project.