Lack of human cytomegalovirus expression in single cells from glioblastoma tumors and cell lines
Glioblastoma is a deadly malignant brain tumor and one of the most incurable forms of cancer in need of new therapeutic targets. As some cancers are known to be caused by a virus, the discovery of viruses could open the possibility to treat, and perhaps prevent, such a disease. Although an association with viruses such as cytomegalovirus or Simian virus 40 has been strongly suggested, involvement of these and other viruses in the initiation and/or propagation of glioblastoma remains vague, controversial and warrants elucidation. To exhaustively address the association of virus and glioblastoma, we developed and validated a robust metagenomic approach to analyze patient biopsies via high-throughput sequencing, a sensitive tool for virus screening. In addition to traditional clinical diagnostics, glioblastoma biopsies were deep-sequenced and analyzed with a multistage computational pipeline to identify known or potentially discover unknown viruses. In contrast to the studies reporting the presence of viral signatures in glioblastoma, no common or recurring active viruses were detected, despite finding an antiviral-like type I interferon response in some specimens. Our findings highlight a discrete and non-specific viral signature and uncharacterized short RNA sequences in glioblastoma. This study provides new insights into glioblastoma pathogenesis and defines a general methodology that can be used for high-resolution virus screening and discovery in human cancers.