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New Study Unveils Reason Behind Less Lymphoma Cases Among HIV Patients

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and National Cancer Institute have discovered the reason why patients living with HIV do not see many cases of T cell lymphomas. They said that HIV patients only develop lymphoma if there are certain specific changes in both HIV and added mutations in the human genes.

Commenting on the findings, co-lead author of the study, John Mellors, M.D, said, "We seem to have explained some of the mystery of why HIV is rarely the direct cause of cancer."

According to the research, when the HIV enters the human body, it inserts its genetic sequence known as the "provirus" into the T-cell's DNA. This step will completely change the functioning of the T cell, which instead of protecting the body against foreign elements, will now produce more HIV.

Earlier research conducted by the same team had revealed that the provirus will affect the T cells' genetic code in such a manner that they become large non-cancerous cells and can carry the complete and infected proviruses. These clones are known as replicones as they have inside of then a replication-competent provirus. These discoveries led to a paradox that if the HIV can blend with T cell oncogenes (which cause cancerous growth), then why doesn't it cause cancer of the lymph nodes.

Researchers studied the sample of 13 HIV patients with lymphoma and shortlisted three with high levels of HIV proviruses, which could be cause of cancer growth. These samples were then studied to know if the provirus was there in the T cell DNA. The following research revealed that when the HIV provirus inserts into a gene known as STAT3 and another gene LCK, it activates the cells with the provirus to begin cell proliferation. In other genes with additional non-viral mutations, this can lead to T cell lymphomas.

With advances in modern science, HIV patients live longer and thus there is a longer period of time in which the mutations accumulate in host genes. With the traces of proviruses already present in oncogenes, the chances of an HIV patient getting lymphoma rises over a period of time. Mellors said that this phenomenon has not been observed till now and the role of HIV medicines in preventing T cell lymphomas is very crucial.

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