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HIV versus cancer
Sep 13, 2004

If HIV infects t cells, and causes these HIV infected t cells to replicate, and in effect grow in the blood, then isn't HIV technically cancer? There are some forms of cancer, such as lymphoma and leukemia which are sometimes caused by HTLV or Epstein Barr virus. These viruses also infect t cells and cause them to replicate with the viral DNA inside them. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that these cancers are not defined by whether or not they have caused tumors, but rather by their presence in the blood, glands, or bone marrow. Leukemia for example, without it's fancy name, is simply blood cancer which is distinct from lymphoma only in that it presents with a larger presence in the bone marrow. But other than that, Leukemia and Lymphoma are almost identical.

I don't quite understand the difference between cancer cells "dividing" and HIV infected cells "spreading." Isn't it all the same thing? Isn't Leukemia a virus and isn't HIV a cancer? I mean come on! The cancer cells "divide" but the HIV cells "replicate"?

Response from Dr. Pierone

There are a number of viruses that play a direct or indirect role in producing various types of cancers. But we would not say that a virus is a cancer. Cancer cells dividing are exactly that, a cell that divides (way too much though). HIV-infected cells really don't spread. Instead, they serve as factories to produce (replicate) HIV which then goes no to infect other cells.



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