Epstein-Barr virus and carcinomas: rare association of the virus with gastric adenocarcinomas

Br J Cancer. 1993 Nov;68(5):1014-9. doi: 10.1038/bjc.1993.472.


We have analysed 174 gastric carcinomas from the United Kingdom and from Japan for the presence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) using in situ hybridisation for the small EBV-encoded nuclear RNAs (EBERs). EBV was detected in the tumour cells in all of six undifferentiated gastric carcinomas with prominent lymphoid stroma (undifferentiated carcinomas of nasopharyngeal type, UCNT) but only in three of the remaining 168 typical gastric adenocarcinomas (1.8%). No differences were observed between the British and the Japanese cases. One case with an EBV-positive UCNT showed adjacent areas of EBV-negative typical adenocarcinoma. It is uncertain whether these patterns represent two independent carcinomas or whether they are the result of heterogeneous EBV infection in a single tumour. In the remaining EBV-positive carcinomas, viral transcripts were detected in virtually all tumour cells, indicating that EBV infection must have taken place early in the neoplastic process and suggesting that the virus is likely to be of pathogenetic significance for the virus-associated tumours. Immunohistology demonstrated absence of detectable levels of the EBV-encoded latent membrane protein, LMP1, and nuclear antigen, EBNA2. The BZLF1 protein which induces the switch from latent to lytic infection was demonstrated in a small proportion of the tumour cells in three cases. The close association of EBV with undifferentiated gastric carcinomas compared to the variable association with gastric adenocarcinomas suggests fundamentally different roles for the virus in the aetiology of these two malignancies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / etiology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Herpesviridae Infections / complications*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / genetics
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / etiology
  • RNA, Viral / analysis
  • Stomach Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / complications*


  • RNA, Viral