Back to square one? Mouse virus may have no role to play in prostate cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome after all

17 12 2010

A few years ago in 2006, scientists made what they felt was a breakthrough discovery: the mouse virus XMRV was found in a significant number of samples of prostate cancer. They felt they had stumbled upon something very exciting and if they were right – if this virus was in fact a cause of prostate cancer – the future looked very bright for the development of new treatments, cures and maybe even a vaccine.

A few years later in 2009 and a different group of researchers found the same virus in tissue samples from people with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS; also called myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME). Sufferers of this syndrome have fought – and continue to fight – a long battle with the medical profession to have their disease recognised as a genuine medical condition with a tangible cause rather than being something psychological or all in their heads, so this news was exciting. In the States, chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers are even banned from donating blood because of the supposed viral link.

Four new research papers published this week in the journal Retrovirology however, have potentially quashed any hope that ME or prostate cancer sufferers may have garnered from the formerly suspected link between their conditions and the virus. One lab claims that rather than patients being infected with XMRV, their tissue or blood samples taken for diagnostic testing have been contaminated with mouse DNA, which itself may contain XMRV virus markers. Another group have gone so far as to blame a particular manufacturer of DNA testing kits with having mouse DNA-contaminated reagents.

I recently wrote a press release for Retrovirology that covered the publication of these four research articles, plus a Comment from Prof Robert Smith from the University of Washington. The story, which has been picked up by UK national newspaper, The Guardian, has caused quite some controversy (see the Virology blog article below and read the comments from disgruntled ME sufferers). I’m chuffed that one of my PRs has got into the national press – again!

Read the original articles at Retrovirology:

Read the press release I wrote at BioMed Central: Back to square one? Mouse virus may have no role to play in chronic fatigue syndrome and prostate cancer after all.

Read some of the news stories on these articles:


18 11 2010

In case you were wondering why some of your usually smooth-top-lipped friends are currently sporting (or trying to sport!) a moustache, the answer is very simple: Movember. The Prostate Cancer Charity, together with the Everyman Campaign to stamp out prostate and testicular cancer, have hijacked the month formerly known as November to “change the face of men’s health” by raising awareness of male cancers and health issues, and to fund research into these life-threatening diseases.

Movember has happened every November since 2004 and has been incredibly popular in Australia, where the Aussie cricket team have championed the cause for a number of years, but it’s only just starting to make waves here in the UK. This year, Kevin Pietersen and a handful of UK celebrities including Ricky Wilson from the Kaiser Chiefs and Chris Wolstenholme from the band Muse are donating their face to this worthwhile charity.

The prostate is a gland that produces prostatic fluid, a liquid that mixes with sperm to nourish it and help it on its way to fertilisation. Prostate cancer, where the DNA in the cells of the prostate gland becomes mutated and causes the cells to grow into a tumour, is the most common male cancer in the UK. Approximately 36,000 new diagnoses of prostate cancer are made every year, with an estimated quarter of a million men living with the disease right now. Because the prostate is located inside the body, it’s hard to tell if  it has become cancerous, so while, in theory, simple removal of the prostate can cure the disease, it’s often too late and the cancer has spread by the time it is discovered.

It’s essential, therefore, that a cure is found for this often fatal condition but because it deals with, y’know, man’s bits, people don’t often like to talk about it. That’s where Movember comes in. It’s like wearing a pink ribbon to show support for breast cancer research charities, but the ribbon is on your face (and in my boyfriend Tom’s case, it’s ginger, not pink)!

Speaking of Tom he’s currently midway through Movember, where the aim is to start the month clean shaven and cultivate your mo’ as the month mo-gresses. He’s going for a White-Goodman-from-Dodgeball half-handlebar look, which as a proud mo’ sista, I think really captures the essense of Movember! You can check his mo-gress, and maybe even sponsor him here.

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