Viral infection in thymoma and thymic tumors with autoimmune diseases

Thorac Cancer. 2021 Nov;12(22):2971-2980. doi: 10.1111/1759-7714.14157. Epub 2021 Sep 17.


A thymoma is a type of thymic tumor which is rarely malignant that is frequently reported in adult patients. A number of thymoma-related immune disorders are observed including autoimmune diseases, which suggests a strong connection between thymoma development and immunological mechanisms. Characterized by association with humoral and cellular immunodeficiency, thymoma patients are susceptible to opportunistic infections by environmental factors. Recent reports have suggested that viral infection may play a role in the etiological mechanisms of thymoma development associated with dysregulated immunity. In this review, we summarize the case reports and studies related to viral infection, such as CMV, EBV and HSV, that probably play a part in the pathogenesis of thymoma and related diseases. Furthermore, we demonstrate the underlying mechanisms by which viruses may induce the occurrence of thymoma with autoimmune diseases. Lastly, we discuss the potential application of antiviral therapy in the treatment of thymic diseases.

Keywords: autoimmune diseases; infection; thymoma; virus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / virology*
  • Humans
  • Opportunistic Infections / immunology
  • Opportunistic Infections / virology
  • Thymoma / drug therapy
  • Thymoma / immunology
  • Thymoma / virology*
  • Thymus Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Thymus Neoplasms / immunology
  • Thymus Neoplasms / virology*
  • Virus Diseases / drug therapy
  • Virus Diseases / immunology
  • Virus Diseases / virology*