Viruses (Oct 2022)

The Role of a Betaretrovirus in Human Breast Cancer: Enveloping a Conundrum

  • Walter H. Gunzburg,
  • Brian Salmons

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 14, no. 11
p. 2342


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Most of the evidence that a human betaretrovirus (HBRV/HMTV) highly related to mouse mammary tumour virus (MMTV) has an etiological role in breast cancer has been summarized in a recent comprehensive Special Issue of “Viruses” entitled “Human Betaretrovirus (HBRV) and Related Diseases”. Shortly after publication of this special issue, a detailed analysis of aligned env sequences was published and concluded that (i) MMTV and HBRV/HMTV cannot be distinguished on the basis of aligned env sequences and (ii) more sequence data covering the full-length env or HBRV/HMTV genomes from multiple isolates is needed. Although productive infection of human cells by MMTV (and presumably HBRV/HMTV) has been shown, it is imperative that the receptor(s) enabling HBRV/HMTV to infect human cells are defined. Moreover, there is currently no compelling data for common integration sites, in contrast to MMTV induced mammary tumorigenesis in mice, suggesting that other mechanisms of tumorigenesis are associated with HBRV/HMTV infection. These issues need to be resolved before a clear link between MMTV/HBRV/HMTV and human breast cancer can be concluded.