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Researchers at Clinical Center show mouse virus may cause breast cancer in humans

September / October 2013 | Volume 12, Issue 5

One promising NIH project is studying whether a virus that causes breast cancer in mice does the same in humans. The research was highlighted during the recent symposium commemorating the NIH Clinical Center's 60-year anniversary.

NIH-funded scientists are investigating the human mammary tumor virus (HMTV), which has been identified in more than a third of human breast tumor samples. Leading the effort is NIH grantee Dr. James F. Holland, of Mount Sinai Hospital, who worked at the Center when it opened in 1953. He and his team found HMTV in 71 percent of mammary tissue from U.S. patients with inflammatory breast cancer.

Holland also described his recent finding that virus-susceptible mice, Mus musculus domesticus, live in areas of Europe where human breast cancer rates are high, whereas
another mouse strain that is not susceptible commonly inhabits Eastern Europe, where human breast cancer is much less common. "We haven't proved that HMTV causes breast cancer yet," Holland said, "but we are following that lead."

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