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Case Western Reserve researchers awarded grant to study connection between HIV and higher rates of cancer

File image: Case Western Reserve University Campus
Posted at 10:01 AM, Jan 28, 2022

CLEVELAND — A Case Western Reserve dental school researcher was awarded $3.7 million from the National Institute of Health (NIH) to study the link between people living with HIV and higher rates of cancer and other diseases.

Ge Jin, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine, said about 1.2 million people with HIV in the United states live relatively normal lives with uncompromised immune systems, but there are two rising concerns.

“One, they are aging and will develop all the diseases or illnesses of the general population, like you or me,” he said. “The other problem—those morbidities, like cancer or co-infection with other viruses, happen at an earlier stage, occur at a higher rate and are more severe (for people with HIV).”

With the awarded funds, Jin and his co-researchers hope to learn why there are higher rates of cancers in the head and neck within this population, as well as co-infection with the herpes virus.

HIV infects immune cells. Cancers in the lung and oral activity affect epithelial cells. Case Western Reserve researchers said if they can figure out the link between HIV and higher cancer rates, and how to stop that connection, the next step would be to focus on therapies to treat the diseases.

“The first thing is,” Jin said, “identifying how and why they can talk with each other.”

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