Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is consistently detected in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) from regions of high and low incidence. EBV DNA within the tumor is homogeneous with regard to the number of terminal repeats. The detection of a single form of viral DNA suggests that the tumors are clonal proliferations of a single cell that was initially infected with EBV. Specific EBV genes are consistently expressed within the NPC tumors and in early, dysplastic lesions. The viral proteins, latent membrane protein 1 and 2, have profound effects on cellular gene expression and cellular growth, resulting in the highly invasive, malignant growth of NPC tumors. In addition to potential genetic changes, the establishment of a latent, transforming infection in epithelial cells is likely to be a major contributing factor to the development of this tumor.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd.