Background: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection in nonsmall cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) has been demonstrated in some ethnic groups. The pathobiology and the role of EBV and oncoprotein expression in these tumors have not been studied extensively. In this study, the authors investigated EBV-encoded RNA-1 (EBER1) transcripts by in situ hybridization and the expression of latent membrane protein-1 (LMP-1) and bcl-2 protein by immunohistochemistry in NSCLC patients from Taiwan, where nasopharyngeal carcinoma is endemic.
Methods: A total of 127 cases of NSCLC (43 cases of squamous cell carcinoma [SCC], 67 cases of adenocarcinoma [AD], 12 cases of large cell carcinoma [LCC], and 5 cases of lymphoepithelioma-like carcinoma [LE]) were included. A sensitive polymerase chain reaction-derived, digoxigenin-labeled DNA probe for in situ detection of EBER1 transcripts was performed for the detection of EBV. Immunohistochemistry using the avidin-biotin-immunoperoxidase method was also performed to evaluate the expression of bcl-2 and LMP-1.
Results: EBER1 was detected in 11 of the 127 NSCLC cases (8.7%; 6 SCC cases and 5 LE cases). All 5 LE cases were EBV-positive, whereas only 6 of the 43 SCC cases (14%), 0 of 67 AD cases, and 12 LCC cases were EBV-positive (P < 0.05). All five LE cases showed diffuse, strong, positive staining of tumor cells; five of the six SCC cases showed diffuse but weak staining. Among the nontumor epithelial cells, there was no EBER1 staining of any of the 11 EBER1-positive cases. The mean age of the LE patients was 10 years younger than that of the patients with other histological types. All 5 LE patients were nonsmokers, whereas 3 of the 6 patients with EBER1-positive SCC (50%) were smokers. EBER1 expression did not correlate with the 2-year survival rate of overall cases, but all 5 LE patients were alive without clinical evidence of disease at last follow-up. Gender, lymph node or distant metastasis, and clinical stage were not found to have any correlation with EBER1 expression (P > 0.05). All LE cases had bcl-2 oncoprotein expression (100%). This frequency was significantly different from other histologic types (P < 0.05). The LMP-1 detection rate was low and demonstrated no correlation with bcl-2 expression.
Conclusions: In this study, the authors found that the primary LE of the lung is associated with young age, a history of not smoking, high bcl-2 immunoreactivity, and better survival rate. These characteristics demonstrate that EBV-associated LE of the lung is a unique entity. The findings of the current study suggest that EBV infection may play a different role in the tumorigenesis of primary LE of the lung than it does in other EBER1-positive NSCLCs.