Epstein-Barr Virus and Cancer

EBV was the first human virus to be directly implicated in carcinogenesis. It infects >90% of the world’s population. Although most humans coexist with the virus without serious sequelae, a small proportion will develop tumors.

 Normal host populations can have vastly different susceptibility to EBV-related tumors as demonstrated by geographical and immunological variations in the prevalence of these cancers. EBV has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Burkitt’s lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and lymphomas, as well as leiomyosarcomas arising in immunocompromised individuals.

 The presence of this virus has also been associated with epithelial malignancies arising in the gastric region and the breast, although some of this work remains in dispute. EBV uses its viral proteins, the actions of which mimic several growth factors, transcription factors, and antiapoptotic factors, to usurp control of the cellular pathways that regulate diverse homeostatic cellular functions.

 Recent advances in antiviral therapeutics, application of monoclonal antibodies, and generation of EBV-specific CTLs are beginning to show promise in the treatment of EBV-related disorders.