Treatment of nasopharyngeal carcinoma with Epstein-Barr virus--specific T lymphocytes

Blood. 2005 Mar 1;105(5):1898-904. doi: 10.1182/blood-2004-07-2975. Epub 2004 Nov 12.


Conventional treatment for nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) frequently fails and is accompanied by severe long-term side effects. Since virtually all undifferentiated NPCs are associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), this tumor is an attractive candidate for cellular immunotherapy targeted against tumor-associated viral antigens. We now demonstrate that EBV-specific cytotoxic T-cell (CTL) lines can readily be generated from individuals with NPC, notwithstanding the patients' prior exposure to chemotherapy/radiation. A total of 10 patients diagnosed with advanced NPC were treated with autologous CTLs. All patients tolerated the CTLs, although one developed increased swelling at the site of pre-existing disease. At 19 to 27 months after infusion, 4 patients treated in remission from locally advanced disease remain disease free. Of 6 patients with refractory disease prior to treatment, 2 had complete responses, and remain in remission over 11 to 23 months after treatment; 1 had a partial remission that persisted for 12 months; 1 has had stable disease for more than 14 months; and 2 had no response. These results demonstrate that administration of EBV-specific CTLs to patients with advanced NPC is feasible, appears to be safe, and can be associated with significant antitumor activity.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Viral
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods*
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / virology
  • Remission Induction
  • T-Cell Antigen Receptor Specificity
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Cytotoxic / transplantation*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Viral Load


  • Antigens, Viral