Genomic Characterization of Six Virus-Associated Cancers Identifies Changes in the Tumor Immune Microenvironment and Altered Genetic Programs

Cancer Res. 2018 Nov 15;78(22):6413-6423. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-18-1342. Epub 2018 Sep 25.


Viruses affect approximately 20% of all human cancers and induce expression of immunogenic viral oncoproteins that make these tumors potent targets for immune checkpoint inhibitors. In this study, we apply computational tools to The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and other genomic datasets to define how virus infection shapes the tumor immune microenvironment and genetic architecture of 6 virus-associated tumor types. Across cancers, the cellular composition of the microenvironment varied by viral status, with virus-positive tumors often exhibiting increased infiltration of cytolytic cell types compared with their virus-negative counterparts. Analyses of the infiltrating T-cell receptor repertoire in these patients revealed that Epstein-Barr virus infection was associated with decreased receptor diversity in multiple cancers, suggesting an antigen-driven clonal T-cell response. Tissue-specific gene-expression signatures capturing virus-associated transcriptomic changes successfully predicted virus status in independent datasets and were associated with both immune- and proliferation-related features that were predictive of patient prognosis. Together, the analyses presented suggest viruses have distinct effects in different tumors, with implications for immunotherapy.Significance: This study utilizes TCGA and other genomic datasets to further our understanding of how viruses affect the tumor immune response in different cancer types.Graphical Abstract: Cancer Res; 78(22); 6413-23. ©2018 AACR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Viral
  • Genome, Human
  • Genomics*
  • Humans
  • Immune System
  • Immunotherapy
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / virology*
  • Oncogene Proteins / chemistry
  • Prognosis
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell / metabolism
  • Transcriptome
  • Tumor Microenvironment*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Oncogene Proteins
  • Receptors, Antigen, T-Cell