Expression of cytokine and chemokine genes in Epstein-Barr virus-associated nasopharyngeal carcinoma: comparison with Hodgkin's disease

J Pathol. 2001 Jun;194(2):145-51. doi: 10.1002/path.867.


Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) and Hodgkin's disease (HD) are characterized by their association with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and the presence of an intense lymphoid stroma, consisting of T lymphocytes and other reactive cells. In both entities, the tumour cells express viral proteins known to provide target epitopes for cytotoxic T-cells (CTLs), yet in vivo, the tumour cells appear to escape CTL recognition. A comparative in situ hybridization study of cytokine and chemokine gene expression in NPC and HD has been undertaken, focusing on cytokines which are known to be inducible by EBV in vitro. Hodgkin and Reed-Sternberg (HRS) cells expressed interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, and IL-10, and the thymus and activation regulated chemokine (TARC) in 15/22, 0/22, 5/22, and 16/21 cases, respectively. In NPC, the epithelial tumour cells showed expression of IL-6 in 3/43 cases and of IL-8 in 2/40 cases. There was no detectable expression of IL-10 and TARC in these cases. These data confirm that HRS cells frequently express cytokine and chemokine genes and suggest that this may enable HRS cells to modulate the immune response in their microenvironment and to escape CTL detection. In contrast, NPC tumour cells show only rare expression of IL-6 and IL-8 and no detectable expression of IL-10 and TARC. Thus, the results suggest that the mechanisms employed by the EBV-positive tumour cells to escape immune recognition and destruction differ between HD and NPC.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma / genetics
  • Carcinoma / immunology
  • Carcinoma / virology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology
  • Chemokine CCL17
  • Chemokines, CC / analysis
  • Chemokines, CC / genetics
  • Cytokines / genetics*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / genetics*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology
  • Gene Expression
  • Hodgkin Disease / genetics
  • Hodgkin Disease / immunology
  • Hodgkin Disease / virology*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • In Situ Hybridization / methods
  • Interleukin-10 / analysis
  • Interleukin-10 / genetics
  • Interleukin-6 / analysis
  • Interleukin-6 / genetics
  • Interleukin-8 / analysis
  • Interleukin-8 / genetics
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / virology*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis*
  • Reed-Sternberg Cells / immunology


  • CCL17 protein, human
  • Chemokine CCL17
  • Chemokines, CC
  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-8
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Interleukin-10