Journal Article

Detection of Epstein-Barr Virus in Invasive Breast Cancers

Mathilde Bonnet, Jean-Marc Guinebretiere, Elisabeth Kremmer, Virginie Grunewald, Ellen Benhamou, Genevieve Contesso and Irene Joab

in JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute

Volume 91, issue 16, pages 1376-1381
Published in print August 1999 | ISSN: 0027-8874
Published online August 1999 | e-ISSN: 1460-2105 | DOI:
Detection of Epstein-Barr Virus in Invasive Breast Cancers

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BACKGROUND: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may be a cofactor in the development of different malignancies, including several types of carcinomas. In this study, we investigated the presence of EBV in human breast cancers. METHODS: We used tissues from 100 consecutive primary invasive breast carcinomas, as well as 30 healthy tissues adjacent to a subset of the tumors. DNA was amplified by use of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), with the primers covering three different regions of the EBV genome. Southern blot analysis was performed by use of a labeled EBV BamHI W restriction fragment as the probe. Infected cells were identified by means of immunohistochemical staining, using monoclonal antibodies directed against the EBV nuclear protein EBNA-1. RESULTS: We were able to detect the EBV genome by PCR in 51% of the tumors, whereas, in 90% of the cases studied, the virus was not detected in healthy tissue adjacent to the tumor (P<.001). The presence of the EBV genome in breast tumors was confirmed by Southern blot analysis. The observed EBNA-1 expression was restricted to a fraction (5%-30%) of tumor epithelial cells. Moreover, no immunohistochemical staining was observed in tumors that were negative for EBV by PCR. EBV was detected more frequently in breast tumors that were hormone-receptor negative (P = .01) and those of high histologic grade (P = .03). EBV detection in primary tumors varied by nodal status (P = .01), largely because of the difference between subjects with more than three lymph nodes versus less than or equal to three lymph nodes involved (72% versus 44%). CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrated the presence of the EBV genome in a large subset of breast cancers. The virus was restricted to tumor cells and was more frequently associated with the most aggressive tumors. EBV may be a cofactor in the development of some breast cancers.

Journal Article.  5290 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medical Oncology

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