Deregulation of immune response genes in patients with Epstein-Barr virus-associated gastric cancer and outcomes

Gastroenterology. 2015 Jan;148(1):137-147.e9. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2014.09.020. Epub 2014 Sep 22.


Background & aims: Patients with Epstein-Barr virus-associated gastric carcinoma (EBVaGC) have a better prognosis than those with gastric cancer not associated with EBV infection (EBVnGC). This is partly because EBV infection recruits lymphocytes, which infiltrate the tumor. A high degree of tumor heterogeneity is likely to be associated with poor response. We investigated differences in gene expression patterns between EBVaGC and EBVnGC.

Methods: We used gene expression profile analysis to compare tumor and nontumor gastric tissues from 12 patients with EBVaGC and 14 patients with EBVnGC. Findings were validated by whole transcriptome RNAseq and real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction analyses. CD3(+) primary T cells were isolated from human blood samples; migration of these cells and of Jurkat cells were measured in culture with EBV-infected and uninfected gastric cancer cells.

Results: Based on Pearson correlation matrix analysis, EBVaGCs had a higher degree of homogeneity than EBVnGCs. Although 4550 genes were differentially expressed between tumor and nontumor gastric tissues of patients with EBVnGC, only 186 genes were differentially expressed between tumor and nontumor gastric tissues of patients with EBVaGC (P < .001). This finding supports the concept that EBVaGCs have fewer genetic and epigenetic alterations than EBVnGCs. Expression of major histocompatibility complex class II genes and genes that regulate chemokine activity were more often deregulated in EBVaGCs compared with nontumor tissues. In culture, more T cells migrated to EBV-infected gastric cancer cells than to uninfected cells; migration was blocked with a neutralizing antibody against CXCR3 (a receptor for many chemokines).

Conclusions: Fewer genes are deregulated in EBVaGC than in EBVnGC. Most changes in EBVaGCs occur in immune response genes. These changes might allow EBVaGC to recruit reactive immune cells; this might contribute to the better outcomes of these patients compared with those with EBVnGC.

Keywords: Anti-Tumor Immunity; Stomach Cancer; Survival; Viral Infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / pharmacology
  • Carcinoma / genetics*
  • Carcinoma / immunology*
  • Carcinoma / virology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chemotaxis, Leukocyte
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / complications
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / genetics*
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Humans
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Prognosis
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Receptors, CXCR3 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Receptors, CXCR3 / immunology
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Stomach Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Stomach Neoplasms / virology
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / virology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • CXCR3 protein, human
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, CXCR3

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE51575
  • GEO/GSE60873