Research has shown that a common virus called Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), may be involved in the development of certain cancers and autoimmune diseases. Atara is exploring ways to treat these diseases by targeting EBV.
Chances are, you may have already heard of the Epstein-Barr Virus, or EBV. It’s known for causing mononucleosis (also called “mono”). This type of infection can cause symptoms like fever, sore throat, and for some people, fatigue that can last several months.
While not everyone who is infected with EBV gets mono or experiences symptoms, by age 40, the large majority of adults (~95%) have been infected with EBV at some point in their lives, even if they’re not aware of it.
For people who have been infected with EBV, the virus is never completely eliminated from their bodies. While EBV can remain in the body for life, it typically doesn’t cause problems as long as the body’s immune system is functioning normally or not suppressed.
However, research has shown that EBV may be involved in the development of serious diseases. Normally, our immune system keeps these serious diseases from developing because it is able to keep EBV in check.
When the immune system isn’t working properly or is suppressed with medication, it may be unable to keep EBV under control. This, in turn, may lead to the development of certain types of cancer like post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (PTLD).
In other cases, when the immune system isn’t functioning normally, uncontrolled EBV may trigger an autoimmune reaction that causes the body to attack itself. This type of autoimmune reaction is seen in diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS).
At Atara, we’re continuing to explore the role of EBV in diseases like EBV-positive (EBV+) PTLD and progressive forms of MS, as well as the connection between EBV and other diseases. We’re working tirelessly to develop potential new therapies that directly target EBV. Our hope is that one day, EBV-targeted treatments may offer new therapeutic options for the brave individuals who battle EBV-related diseases every day.