Epstein-Barr virus detection in nasopharyngeal tissues of patients with suspected nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Cancer. 1998 Apr 15;82(8):1449-53.


Background: Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is strongly associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Detection of EBV in biopsy specimens may serve as a tumor marker.

Methods: To assess the sensitivity and specificity of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and in situ hybridization in the diagnosis of NPC, formalin fixed, paraffin embedded nasopharyngeal biopsies from patients in Taiwan suspected of having NPC were studied.

Results: In specimens from 107 patients with NPC, EBV was detected by PCR in 97 cases (90.7%) and by EBER in situ hybridization in 105 cases (98.1%). In specimens from 61 patients without neoplasia, EBV was detected by PCR in 7 cases (11.5%) and by EBER in situ hybridization in 0 cases.

Conclusions: These results suggest that although EBV DNA may occasionally be detected in nonneoplastic nasopharyngeal tissues, cells expressing EBER are not. EBER in situ hybridization may therefore prove to be a useful adjunct in the diagnosis of NPC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / virology*
  • DNA Primers / chemistry
  • DNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • DNA, Viral / analysis*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / genetics*
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / virology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • RNA, Viral / analysis*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • DNA, Viral
  • Epstein-Barr virus encoded RNA 1
  • RNA, Viral