Detection of Epstein-Barr viral RNA in malignant lymphomas of the upper aerodigestive tract

J. K.C. Chan, T. T.C. Yip, W. Y.W. Tsang, C. S. Ng, W. H. Lau, Y. F. Poon, Sze Chuen Cesar Wong, V. W.S. Ma

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176 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies have suggested a probable etiologic association between Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and nasal lymphomas, irrespective of geographic location. This study was performed to investigate the strength of association of EBV with non-Hodgkin's lymphomas of the upper aerodigestive tract, based on a large series of cases that have been thoroughly immunophenotyped on frozen tissues. A sensitive in situ hybridization technique was used to detect EBV encoded RNA (EBER) in paraffin sections. Among 30 cases of nasal/nasopharyngeal T-cell lymphoma, 25 (83.3%) were EBER-positive. In the positive cases, most of the neoplastic cells showed strong nuclear signals. Further analysis of this group of tumors showed that all 21 cases (100%) with a CD56+ CD3- phenotype were EBER positive, whereas four of nine cases (44.4%) with a CD56-negative immunophenotype were positive. Only one of 10 cases (10%) of nasal/nasopharyngeal B-cell lymphoma was EBER positive; the positive case was a diffuse mixed-cell lymphoma and could not be distinguished morphologically from the negative cases. Among the 21 cases of lymphoma of the tonsils and back of the tongue (20 B-lineage and one T-lineage), none was EBER positive. In the normal mucosa of the nose/nasopharynx or tonsil (20 cases studied), only very rare EBER-positive small lymphocytes were found in two cases. The almost exclusive detection of EBER in nasal/nasopharyngeal T- cell neoplasms among the lymphomas of the upper aerodigestive tract suggests that EBV probably plays an etiologic role in the pathogenesis of this group of tumors and is not simply a passenger virus, and neither is this merely a site-dependent phenomenon in view of the weak association with nasal/nasopharyngeal B-cell lymphoma.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)938-946
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Surgery
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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