Infectious agents, including viruses, are associated with up to 20% of human cancers. The Blackbourn laboratory studies two such viruses: Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) and Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCV or MCPyV).
Our major interest is in how viruses cause disease and modulate the immune response. KSHV provides a model for most of our studies, but the impact of our work could extend to other viruses or host/pathogen interactions. Our main research topics in this context are: (i) how KSHV interacts with the DNA damage response. (ii) How KSHV modulates the type I interferon (alpha & beta) response. (iii) How KSHV deregulates antigen-specifc T cell responses. (iii) What are the consequences of KSHV infection on endothelial cell biology, including cell-cell interactions and regulating leukocyte recruitment.
For MCV, our interests lie in understanding the tumour microenvironment and how it contributes to the pathogenesis of Merkel cell carcinoma.