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Margaret Mead
Research Article

Lack of evidence for an association of Epstein–Barr virus infection with breast carcinoma


BackgroundEpstein–Barr virus (EBV) is a ubiquitous human γ-herpes virus infecting more than 90% of the population worldwide. EBV is associated with certain malignancies (e.g. Burkitt lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma). Recent studies have raised the possibility that EBV may also be involved in the pathogenesis of breast carcinoma, the most common carcinoma of females. If substantiated, this finding would have major implications regarding prevention and therapy of the disease. The studies published so far have employed diverse methods, however, and the results have been controversial.MethodsUsing the EBV DNA PCR, EBV DNA in situ hybridisation and in situ hybridisation for the detection of the EBV-encoded RNAs, and using immunohistochemistry for the demonstration of the EBV-encoded nuclear antigen 1, we have studied a series of 59 invasive breast carcinomas for evidence of EBV infection.ResultsEBV-encoded RNA-specific in situ hybridisation and EBV-encoded nuclear antigen 1 immunohistochemistry were negative in all cases. Using the PCR, EBV DNA was detected in four out of 59 cases. These cases were further studied by EBV DNA in situ hybridisation, showing an absence of viral DNA from the tumour cells.ConclusionThese results indicate that breast carcinoma is not an EBV-associated tumour.