Worldwide, chronic infection by certain pathogens (i.e. virus, bacteria and parasite) is responsible for more than two million new cancer cases each year, with about a third of these cases in China. Although the aetiological roles of several common pathogens (e.g. H. pylori, HBV, HCV, and HPV) for certain cancers are well established, questions remain about their relevance to diseases other than cancer.
The risk of developing a particular disease and its long-term prognosis may be affected by host immunity, pathogen subtype, co-infection with other pathogens, genetic factors from both host and pathogens, and other lifestyle and environmental factors, however, these have not been properly investigated in large epidemiological studies.
Our CRUK-funded programme measured over 45 antigens from about 20 pathogens using a custom-designed multiplex serological panel among about 30,000 cancers and 10,000 sub-cohort CKB participants. Building on this and other previous work on chronic infections we will continue to develop cutting-edge research into the causal roles of chronic infection of multiple pathogens in aetiology of site-specific cancers and other diseases.
Our current and planned objectives are:
- to investigate the associations of chronic infection of particular pathogens, both individually and collectively, with risks of site-specific cancer and cancer subtypes, and other diseases;
- to explore the role of host immunity (e.g. HLA-related genetic variants) in susceptibility to different types of chronic infection and development and progression of specific cancers;
- to assess, the complex roles of host-virus interactions in the development and prognosis of liver cancer and chronic liver diseases using the host genetics and HBV viral genomes;
- to examine interactions between pathogens, host genetic and lifestyle factors, in their effects on different types of cancer;
- to improve existing risk prediction models for specific cancers using serological markers and genetic risk factors.
To address these research questions, we collaborate with other research groups both in and beyond Oxford, including UK Biobank, Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics (WCHG), German Cancer Researcher Center (DKFZ) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC/WHO). We also plan to work with health service researchers and policy makers to develop and apply targeted prevention and treatment, especially in high-risk settings.