EBV and myeloma stem cells. Chapter 2.

One thing Dr. Biswas discovered is that the subset of EBV-positive (as opposed to the EBV-negative) myeloma cells are the blasted stem cells, which have CD19 on their surface. What does that mean? Simply that we’re not talking about plasma cells here, but about B-cells that have the ability to REPRODUCE themselves, turning into plasma cells (which do not have that ability, btw).

Confused? Well then, let’s have a look at something different.

On page 12, Dr. Biswas discusses the 90% percentage that I mentioned in my previous post. While EBV “is benign in acute stages and latent in chronic stages […], in some cases, EBV has been demonstrated to be involved in the development of many malignancies, both hematologic and epithelial.”

So EBV doesn’t normally cause any terrible mischief. but remains inactive (quiescent) once it gets inside its host cell. But, in some cases, EBV doesn’t keep sleeping like Fluffy (Harry Potter reference: Fluffy, the three-headed sleeping dog)…That is the case with myeloma, as we have seen, but it happens in other types of cancers, too, such as Burkitt lymphoma, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

Even though it’s difficult to keep up with the technical gobbledegook, what is clear is that other factors have to be present in order for EBV to initiate the development of cancer (the image in my brain is of Fluffy waking up when the music stops…the music would be the “other factors”…). Anyway, that will be fodder for my third chapter, methinks.

So, summing up: 1. in MOST cases, EBV causes no long-term harm but simply remains dormant inside its host cell; 2. In some cases, unfortunately, it is associated with the development of cancer; 3. In myeloma, EBV DNA is present only in a small subpopulation of MM cells = the myeloma stem cells; 4. EBV doesn’t cause just one type of cancer, but quite a few, and 5. As for other types of cancer, EBV is present in EVERY SINGLE tumor cell, so myeloma really stands out in this group of EBV-associated malignancies. Yaaay, we’re special! Um.  🙄

A question just popped into my head (actually, it’s been in my head for a while now): would it make a difference if you took antiviral drugs such as acyclovir as soon as you receive an EBV diagnosis? Hmmm.

When my EBV infection was diagnosed, I was given nothing, e.g. Nothing. Just told to go home and rest…

But after going through all these new EBV-myeloma studies, I wonder if I would have ended up with MGUS (more than 18 years ago!) if I had immediately taken acyclovir or something similar? And I wonder this not just for myself but for all the people who have EBV-associated cancers.

Well, perhaps it’s because there wasn’t much research on this topic back then (the EBV-MM studies are quite recent, as we have seen). Perhaps EBV is too insidious to be targeted by any existing drug on the planet…even acyclovir has its limits, I have read. Perhaps it’s because nothing can be done once the process has begun, but I can tell you that I’d have been “relieved” (with lack of a better word) to have known the cause/s of my cancer. It would have eliminated all these years of wondering where I got this thing (well, not wondering obsessively…you know what I mean).

And another thing: with all we know about EBV now, it seems absolutely astounding that everyone diagnosed with MGUS, SMM, or MM doesn’t get immediately tested for EBV. I mean, NOW (not 20 years ago).

Or am I wrong? Was anyone here tested for EBV?

Okay, enough for today. I seem to have more questions than answers…

My next chapter is going to be a bit more technical. I’m sure you can’t wait, eh! 😉 I’ll try to tone it down…  😎 

1 Comment

  1. That’s very interesting, Margaret. It would make sense that a virus has gotten into the cells and causes them to mutate and reproduce rapidly.

    I remember a couple kids in our school had EBV when I was a kid but as far as I know, I never had it. I may get tested out of curiosity.

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