Titers of Epstein-Barr virus-related antibodies in nasopharyngeal carcinoma in Japan

Cancer. 1984 Feb 1;53(3):430-40. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(19840201)53:3<430::aid-cncr2820530311>3.0.co;2-z.


It is thought that nonkeratinizing or undifferentiated squamous cell carcinoma in the nasopharynx (NPC) is intimately correlated with Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). Twenty-one patients with NPC were followed in Kyoto University Hospital and 4 in Osaka Red Cross Hospital during the past 2 years from 1980 to 1981. These patients were classified histopathologically according to the WHO classification in 1978 and staged with the TNM classification in Union Internationale Contre le Cancer (UICC) in 1978. The incidence rate of NPC among the head and neck tumors was 5.6% in the authors' university from 1980 to 1981. The sex ratio of male to female was nearly equal. The mean age of NPC patients was 56.7 years. Sera from these 25 patients with nasopharyngeal carcinoma were collected at intervals of 3 to 8 months over a 2-year period, and were examined for their spectra and titers of antibodies of EBV-related antigens. They were titrated for IgG, IgA and IgM antibodies to EB viral capsid antigen (VCA), for IgG and IgA antibodies to early antigen-DR component (EA) and for antibodies to EBV-associated nuclear antigen (EBNA). All of these patients were primarily treated with radiation, while a few who did not respond to this therapy were subsequently treated with surgery or chemotherapy. EBV antibodies of VCA-IgG, -IgA, EA(DR)-IgG, and -IgA and EBNA were elevated in 73% and 90% of the nonkeratinizing and undifferentiated NPC patients, respectively. The VCA-IgM was elevated in almost none of the cases. In contrast to this, these values were all in a normal range in the NPC patients with keratinizing squamous cell carcinoma and malignant lymphoma. Also 9% and 10% of nonkeratinizing and undifferentiated carcinomas showed the normal ranges of EBV antibodies, possibly indicating a nonassociation with EBV. When NPC disappeared with radiation therapy, EBV antibodies became normal for 6-18 months. However, those whose NPC did not respond to the combined therapy with radiation, surgery and chemotherapy maintained high titers of EBV antibodies. The prognosis was the poorest in the patients with undifferentiated carcinoma, 40% of whom died within 4 years after diagnosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Viral / analysis*
  • Antigens, Viral / immunology
  • Carcinoma / immunology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / immunology
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens
  • Female
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Lymphoma / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Antigens, Viral
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Nuclear Antigens
  • Epstein-Barr virus early antigen