CMV and brain tumours

CMV and brain tumours

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common virus in our community. Most adults will show serological evidence of of previous exposure. CMV can cause severe disease, but generally this is only in newborns or in immunosuppressed patients, such as those people having had a transplant.

In the last few years, it has become clear that CMV can be identified in brain tumour tissue – both in primary gliomas (glioblastoma, astrocytoma, GBM) and also in metastatic tumours (Cobbs et al, Cancer Research, 2002; Taher et al., Translational Oncology, 2014). We don’t really know what the viral particles are doing in brain tumour cells. It is unlikely that the tumours are actually caused by the virus. However, the virus may promote growth of tumour cells.

The presence of the viral particles does provide an opportunity to develop specific treatments however. One overseas trial used an antiviral drug (valganciclovir) in GBM patients and there appeared to be some improvement in outcome.

We have employed a different approach – we have used the viral particles to be the target of immunotherapy. We have conducted this world-leading research over the last few years and our results are very encouraging (Crough et al, 2012; Schuessler et al, 2014). Our trials continue and we hope to be presenting the latest results at international conferences in 2017.

A fascinating new paper has just been published in the journal Neuro-Oncology. Goerig et al (2016) have described a frequent occurrence of CMV-associated encephalopathy (brain inflammation) during radiotherapy for brain tumours (gliomas and metastatic tumours). This has never been looked at before and the frequency of this encephalopathy (it affected in almost half of all patients that had been shown to be positive for CMV before treatment commenced) is astounding. Currently, clinical deterioration during radiotherapy is usually attributed to disease progression or perhaps oedema from the radiotherapy. Now it seems, CMV-encephalopathy could be the culprit.

The results do need to be repeated at other centres and in more patients, but it could have a big impact on treatment regimes in the future. It may also have a significant effect on how we might design our own anti-CMV trials in the future. We are already working on that!!

By Prof David Walker, Neurosurgeon

Prof David Walker is a neurosurgeon and spinal surgeon at BrizBrain & Spine. He has a special clinical interest in brain tumours and is actively involved in conducting research to help find a cure for this disease. Prof Walker is  also the Managing Director of the Newro Foundation, a research organisation that conducts research into brain and spine conditions.


Patient and staff safety is our highest priority at Briz Brain & Spine.

For patients with appointments, if you are suffering any symptoms such as fever, dry cough, sore throat, tiredness or shortness of breath or have recently travelled interstate, overseas or been in contact with someone who has returned from interstate or overseas, or have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, please contact our friendly reception team before attending the clinic. A telehealth appointment may be an alternative method of speaking with our surgeons.

Protecting the health of our staff is vital to ensure they can continue to provide great service.  Patients are encouraged to prepay accounts over the phone prior to appointments or via payWave or other contactless payment methods. Patients are also asked to complete the Patient Details Form and sign the Privacy Policy Agreement electronically prior to their appointment. These forms can be found under our Contacts page on the website or by clicking here. Please note, patients are asked to bring only ONE support person to their appointment and maintain appropriate social distances to help reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.

During this current outbreak of Covid-19 coronavirus we want to assure all of our patients that we will continue to implement procedures to maintain a hygienic clinical environment. This includes:

-          Disinfecting and wiping down all treatment surfaces

-          Regular cleaning of rooms and shared equipment

-          Thorough cleaning of all communal items including reception chairs, tables, door handles, pens and other shared items

-          All staff have access to infection control procedures and training to implement these as necessary

We are carefully monitoring the directions and advice of Queensland Health, the Australian Government Department of Health and the World Health Organization. In the meantime, it is still business as usual and our doors are open.

Briz Brain & Spine wishes to apologise for the inconvenience caused and thanks you for your cooperation and understanding during this unprecedented situation.