Virus and cancer | Cancéropôle du Grand-Est, la recherche innovante dans la lutte contre le cancer


The research priority axis C Virus and Cancer is composed of 7 teams:


  • Viral Oncoproteins and domain-motif networks, IGBMC, Strasbourg –  Head: Gilles TRAVE
  • Nuclear Signaling and cancer, UMR 7242 CNRS, Institut de Recherche de l’Ecole de Biotechnologies, Strasbourg – Head: Murielle MASSON
  • Tumor Biology Laboratory, Centre Paul Strauss, Strasbourg Unversity EA3430 – Head: Alain JUNG
  • Inserm U1110, Institut de Recherche sur les Maladies Virales et Hépatiques, LabEx HepSYS, Strasbourg University- Head : Thomas BAUMERT

Champagne-Ardenne : Inserm UMR-S903, Reims Champagne-Ardenne University – Head : Christine CLAVEL

Franche-Comté : EA3181 « Carcinogenesis associated to HPV »,  Franche-Comté University- Head : Christiane MOUGIN

Lorraine : Biopathology Department, Institut de Cancérologie de Lorraine, Nancy – Head : Xavier SASTRE-GARAU

Research Interest

Research projects from the priority axis C are based on the study of molecular and cellular mechanisms of carcinogenesis linked to infections by papilloma virus (HPV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV). Prevention of cancer associated with viral infection is also a major concern of the axis C. The teams are working on new algorithms for cervical screening, prophylactic vaccination against HPV or new drug treatments for hepatocellular carcinoma associated with HCV. Scientists, biologists, clinicians have built up collaborative networks in the Cancéropôle territory to increase research success rates.

HPV Research projects

HPVs are the first cause of virus associated cancer worldwide. They are responsible of almost all cervical and anal cancers, (>99%) and 20 to 50 % of head and neck, vagina, vulva and penis cancers. These virus associated cancers give the possibility to tackle innovative questions in relation to the oncogenetic function of viral proteins. Structural studies are performed to better characterise the interactions between the E6 oncoprotein and viral transcripts playing a key role in viral cycle, alternative splicing and carcinogenesis. In addition, research on the epigenetic mechanisms regulating viral oncogenes should lead to the identification of new signaling paths that could be targeted by specific drugs. Finally, the function of viral oncoproteins transcripts and isoforms are studied in two different paths of tumor progression: response to hypoxia and epithelia-mesenchymal transition through the YAP/TAZ pathway. These studies should allow for the identification of new biomarkers and/or new targets to predict or prevent metastasis development.

Scientists skilled in valorization are an asset to evaluate the added value of new viral or cellular biomarkers. For example, the value of combined diagnostic and therapeutic markers is being assessed in anal and head and neck cancer. Furthermore, a new and innovative method to detect circulating HPV DNA could be used for primary diagnostic of HPV induced cancer, relapse diagnosis or therapy follow-up.

The actors of the priority axis C also have a great expertise in primary and secondary prevention of cancer induced by HPV. Regarding primary prevention, study of women between 25-45 years old and their acceptability to vaccine against HPV is performed within the frame of a European program. For secondary prevention, a screening campaign for cervical cancer is performed in Champagne-Ardenne by testing for HPV, which is an innovative approach in France, as well as the development of new social marketing approach or screening of pre-cancerous lesions in anal and head and neck cancers.

HCV Research projects

Because of insufficient treatment, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the second cause of death related to cancer in men worldwide. Conversely to other cancer, HCC incidence rates and mortality rates are increasing. The risk factors for HCC are hepatitis B and C infection, alcohol and metabolism imbalance such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. HCC risk can be reduced by anti-viral therapy and alcohol intake suppression but remains when liver fibrosis or cirrhosis is present.

Research projects on Hepatatis C virus are focused on genomic and proteomic perturbations induced by the virus, as well as epigenetic regulation in infected hepatocytes. These events are favored by a HCV chronic infection, leading to a genomic instability in infected hepatocytes and subsequently in liver damages which can evolve to HCC. The main aim of the scientists working on HCV is to develop a chemotherapy treatment strategy to impair the progression of the disease to HCC for high risk patient.

Axis management