Detection of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) genomes in the serum of patients with EBV-associated Hodgkin's disease

Int J Cancer. 1999 Aug 20;84(4):442-8. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1097-0215(19990820)84:4<442::aid-ijc20>;2-j.


DNA from malignant cells is present in the serum/plasma of cancer patients and DNA from this source is amenable to analysis by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). In the present study, we evaluated whether Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) DNA is present in the serum of patients with EBV-associated Hodgkin's disease (HD). Using conventional PCR, EBV DNA was detected in serum from 30/33 patients with EBV-associated HD but in only 6/26 patients with non-EBV-associated disease (p < 0.001). Samples from healthy individuals were negative and only 5/12 infectious mononucleosis samples were positive. Real-time quantitative PCR was subsequently employed to determine the concentration of EBV DNA present in serum; among positive samples the level ranged from 1 to 705 copies per 125 microliter of serum. Post-treatment samples from 5/14 cases with EBV-associated HD contained detectable EBV DNA; analysis of this small group of cases suggests that positivity in post-treatment samples correlates with risk factors indicative of a poor prognosis. Overall, our results are consistent with the notion that DNA from Reed-Sternberg cells is present in the serum of HD patients, and further suggest that serum EBV should be evaluated as a prognostic marker. Int. J. Cancer (Pred. Oncol.) 84:442-448, 1999.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • DNA, Viral / blood*
  • Female
  • Genome, Viral*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Hodgkin Disease / blood
  • Hodgkin Disease / immunology
  • Hodgkin Disease / pathology
  • Hodgkin Disease / virology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / blood
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / immunology
  • Infectious Mononucleosis / virology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reed-Sternberg Cells / virology
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • DNA, Viral
  • Immunoglobulin M