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Cancer sleuths find clues to Kaposi's.

Cancer sleuths find clues to Kaposi's

For the first time, scientists have successfully maintained long-term laboratory cultures of Kaposi's sarcoma (KS) cells taken from AIDS patients. IN analyzing these cells, they have found that AIDS-associated Kaposi's sarcoma is initiated by one or more as-yet-unidentified growth factors secreted by HIV-infected white blood cells.

The work, led by National Cancer Institute researcher and HIV co-discoverer Robert C. Gallo, provides the strongest evidence yet that Kaposi's sarcoma is not a true cancer but a "polyclonal proliferation" of cells. In other words, its tumors are not the result of a single cell gone reproductively awry, as in a true cancer, but instead represent a population of cells that grow abnormally under the influence of an unusual growth factor.

Kaposi's sarcoma is characterized by skin lesions associated with abnormal blood vessel formation and a proliferation of so-called spindle cells that scientists believe originate in the body's circulatory system. Traditionally afflicting men in Mediterranean and African countries, it has more recently become common in HIV-infected men and in other immunosuppressed individuals.

Gallo and his co-workers found that KS cells would not survive in culture even when fed a variety of traditional cell growth factors. But they grew well for more than one year in a culture medium containing the secretions of cells infected with human retroviruses such as HIV and HTLV-II (a cancer -causing virus closely related to HIV).

These findings suggest retrovirus-infected cells may become genetically "reprogrammed" to secrete a product that is necessary for KS cell growth. They are consistent with the fact that KS cells themselves do not show evidence of retroviral infection (SN: 10/15/88, p.244).

The scientists say their newfound ability to culture KS cells will facilitate identification of the growth factor or factors supporting KS cell growth. The work may further lead to the engineering of antibody-like molecules or other drugs capable of specifically blocking these growth factors' action.
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Title Annotation:Kaposi's sarcoma
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 29, 1988
Previous Article:Hemophiliacs and AIDS: really at risk.
Next Article:Tying up a knotty loose end.

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