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Scientists found a virus that could be causing liver cancer in cats

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Posted October 27, 2019

Cancer is a terrible disease, affecting humans and animals. Its exact causes and mechanism is still poorly understood, but in some cases it can be triggered by a virus. For example, now scientists from The University of Sydney found that a virus may be causing liver cancer in companion cats. This information could help developing preventive measures and therapies.

Cats are very common pets and taking care of them is very important. Liver cancer in cats, as it seems, could be caused by a virus. Image credit: Jens Nietschmann via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

We don’t know what causes most types of cancer. But if we find that at least some of them are triggered by viruses, we could adjust therapies to accommodate that. For example, in some cases it would be meaningful to target the virus instead of administering anti-cancer drugs. Recently discovered hepatitis B-like virus, called domestic cat hepadnavirus (DCH), is now considered to be a potential trigger for certain types of hepatitis and liver cancer in cats. Because scientists found DCH in cats with liver cancer and other liver diseases, scientists think the virus could be the one causing them.

DCH is like hepatitis B in people, but, as it seems like, more common. In fact, it is detected in 6.5 % and 10.8 % of pet cats in Australia and Italy respectively. Not all cases of DCH infection become cancerous and this virus is not dangerous to humans. Hepatitis B can lead to liver cancer and chronic hepatitis in humans and DCH, as this new study shows, can do the same to cats. Liver cancer is very hard to treat, but a better understanding what causes it could lead to new therapies. Scientists say that now they will begin working on vaccines and targeted treatments against the virus, hoping to create effective method of cancer prevention.

Professor Julia Beatty, one of the authors of the study, said: “We are really excited because there is no specific treatment for liver cancer in cats at the moment. Pets are part of our families so this is hugely beneficial for the development of vaccines and treatments with fewer side-effects”.

Because DCH is so similar to hepatitis B, it is not impossible that research of one will not push discoveries in the studies of another. More than 850,000 people died from chronic hepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma caused by the hepatitis B virus in 2015 alone. It is a major global health concern and scientists around the world are pushing towards new treatments and preventive strategies.

This research will be used for the development of new treatments for domestic cat hepadnavirus infections and more effective therapies against certain types of hepatitis and liver cancer in cats. It will still be years until major breakthroughs are reached, but hopefully this will be a huge step towards preventing harmful illnesses in one of our favorite pets.

 

Source: University of Sydney

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