The prognostic value of the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) DNA load in sera of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) patients measured before any treatment, after treatment and before relapse was assessed. The real-time polymerase chain reaction was used to detect the viral load levels among 74 NPC subjects. Patients were followed up for a period going from 1 to 6 years (median 4 years). Before treatment, the EBV DNA load was correlated with lymph node involvement and advanced stages. After treatment, the viral load level declined significantly and patients presenting a viral load level lower than 1000 copies/ml showed a better overall survival (OS). Moreover, a significant result was found when the 6-year OS rates of patients having fewer or more than 15,000 copies/ml of viral load before relapse were compared. These results suggest that the EBV DNA load quantification after treatment may be a useful predictor of disease progression and survival.