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.
Copyright 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.