Infections and Cancer Epidemiology

About 20% of all cancer cases worldwide are associated with infections. The main etiologic agents are

  • Human Papillomaviruses (HPV), which are associated with cervical cancer, other anogenital cancers, and a subset of head and neck cancers
  • Helicobacter pylori (H.pylori), a bacterium that causes gastric cancer
  • Hepatitis B and C virus (HBV, HCV), which cause hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is associated with Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  • Human Herpesvirus 8 (HHV8), or Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), causing Kaposi sarcoma
However, the number of cancer cases attributable to infections is most likely underestimated, and most of the infectious agents mentioned above may also cause other cancers, e.g. HPV and skin cancer, or H.pylori and other gastrointestinal cancers. Our main aim is to investigate these less firmly established associations, and to discover novel markers based on serological detection, e.g. for early disease detection, or as progression markers.

To this end, we have developed a high-throughput serological method (“Multiplex Serology”) based on Luminex technology. Multiplex serology allows us to analyze up to 2000 serum samples per day for antibodies to up to 100 different antigens simultaneously. We have successfully developed serological assays for more than 50 HPV types, 15 H.pylori proteins, HBV, HCV, Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), all human Polyomaviruses, several human Herpesviruses, and other infectious agents.

We collaborate worldwide with many clinical and epidemiological partners to analyze large-scale seroepidemiological studies. The Infections and Cancer Epidemiology group works closely with the group of Dr. Michael Pawlita.


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