Diagnosis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma by means of recombinant Epstein-Barr virus proteins

Lancet. 1991 Mar 23;337(8743):685-9. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(91)90275-t.


The immune response of patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma to Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antigens is diagnostic of the tumour. Existing tests use EBV antigens produced in EBV-infected lymphoblastoid cells, but the virus replicates poorly in these cells. Serum samples from 18 patients diagnosed as having nasopharyngeal carcinoma were screened by western blot analysis, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and immunofluorescence tests for antibodies to the EBV-coded alkaline deoxyribonuclease (DNase), thymidine kinase, and membrane antigen (gp340/220) produced in recombinant baculovirus or bovine papillomavirus systems. Each protein was a useful diagnostic marker for nasopharyngeal carcinoma, although in the gp340/220 ELISAs there was substantial overlap for both IgG and IgA antibodies between serum samples from nasopharyngeal carcinoma patients and those from healthy donors seropositive for EBV. The EBV thymidine kinase was the most sensitive predictor of nasopharyngeal carcinoma; all such samples showed both IgG and IgA antibody responses to this protein and all gave clearly distinct titres from those of the EBV-seropositive donors in the IgA test. Each of the recombinant systems described is suitable for use in large-scale screening programmes for the early diagnosis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis*
  • Antigens, Viral*
  • Carcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Carcinoma / immunology
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase / immunology
  • Deoxyribonucleases*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / enzymology
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / analysis*
  • Immunoglobulin G / analysis*
  • Membrane Proteins*
  • Methods
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Thymidine Kinase*
  • Viral Matrix Proteins*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Viral
  • EBV-associated membrane antigen, Epstein-Barr virus
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Viral Matrix Proteins
  • Thymidine Kinase
  • DNA-Directed DNA Polymerase
  • Deoxyribonucleases