Assessing the risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma on the basis of EBV antibody spectrum

Int J Cancer. 2002 Feb 1;97(4):489-92. doi: 10.1002/ijc.1641.


We have evaluated the performance of 3 new EBV ELISA for the diagnosis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). The tests were specific for EBNA 1 IgA, EBNA 1 IgG and zta IgG, respectively. Their distinct antigenic specificity permits these assays to be used in concert in an approach that differentiates patients and apparently healthy subjects on the basis of their antibody spectrum. By so exploiting a distinguishing feature of NPC first described by Lloyd Olds and his group (Olds et al., Proc Nat Acad Sci 1966;56:1699-1704) [corrected] that the patients sustain high levels of a broad spectrum of serum EBV antibodies, this approach achieved a sensitivity of 92% and a specificity of 93%, surpassing the performance of each of these assays individually. The enhanced performance is especially useful in population screening. It was shown that relative risk of NPC sustained by apparently healthy subjects residing in a high incidence area for NPC in the Pearl River estuary in Southern China may vary according to EBV antibody spectrum. The risk of the cancer was markedly reduced with odds ratios of 0.009 for 59% of those who had low level of all 3 antibodies. The risk was increased as antibody spectrum broadens and the risk was the highest with an odds ratio of 138 for 0.4% of those who had high levels of all 3 antibodies. Thus, EBV antibody spectrum may serve to guide follow-up measures for early detection of the cancer and/or risk counseling according to level of the risk of the cancer sustained by the screened individuals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Biomarkers
  • Carcinoma / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma / epidemiology*
  • Carcinoma / immunology
  • Carcinoma / virology
  • China / epidemiology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / immunology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens / immunology
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / blood
  • Immunoglobulin A / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / virology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Trans-Activators / immunology
  • Viral Proteins*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Viral
  • BZLF1 protein, Herpesvirus 4, Human
  • Biomarkers
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Trans-Activators
  • Viral Proteins
  • EBV-encoded nuclear antigen 1