DNA viruses are known to be associated with a variety of different cancers. Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are a family of viruses and several of its sub-types are classified as high-risk HPVs as they are found to be associated with the development of a number of different cancers. Almost all cervical cancers appear to be driven by HPV infection and HPV is also found in most cancers of the anus and at least half the cancers of the vulva, penis and vagina, and increasingly found in one sub-type of head and neck cancers namely oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma. Our understanding of HPVs role in cancer development comes from extensive studies done on cervical cancer and it has just been assumed that HPV plays an identical role in the development of all other cancers arising in the presence of HPV sequences, although this has not been proven. Most invasive cervical cancers have the HPV genome integrated into one or more sites within the human genome. One powerful tool to examine all the sites of HPV integration in a cancer but that also provides a comprehensive view of genomic alterations in that cancer is the use of next generation sequencing of mate-pair libraries produced from the DNA isolated. We will describe how this powerful technology can provide important information about the genomic organization within an individual cancer genome, and how this has demonstrated that HPVs role in oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma is distinct from that in cervical cancer. We will also describe why the sequencing of mate-pair libraries could be a powerful clinical tool for the management of patients with a DNA viral etiology and how this could quickly transform the care of these patients.
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