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Ann Oncol. 2000 Jan;11(1):91-6.

Epstein-Barr virus association in classical Hodgkin's disease provides survival advantage to patients and correlates with higher expression of proliferation markers in Reed-Sternberg cells.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, India.



Most Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) associated lymphoproliferative disorders have high proliferation indices. However, classical Hodgkin's disease (cHD) is heterogeneous, with respect to proliferation index of the Reed-Sternberg cell (RS cell), and EBV association. Hence, we investigated whether cHD with and without EBV-association differ with respect to the proliferation index of the RS cells. Further we investigated whether this would have a bearing on patients survival.


We investigated 110 cases of cHD for: a) EBV association by immunohistochemical demonstration of EBV-latent membrane protein-1 and EBV encoded nuclear RNA 1 by mRNA in situ hybridisation; b) Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) expression in the RS cells.


EBV association was noted in 86 of 110 cases (78%). Higher PCNA expression (P = 0.004) and younger age (P = 0.001) correlated independently with EBV association. The 10 year relapse free survival (RFS) of EBV+ and EBV- patients were 60% and 44%, respectively (P = 0.03). The 10 year overall survival (OS) of EBV+ and EBV- patients were 85% and 64%, respectively (P = 0.03). EBV association maintained its significant impact on RFS and OS within Cox proportional hazard model.


Our study suggests that EBV is likely to confer a higher PCNA expression and also contribute towards maintaining the RS cells of cHD in cell cycle. Hence, RS cells in EBV associated cHD would be more responsive to chemotherapy and radiotherapy associated DNA damage. Thus, EBV-association provides survival advantage to cHD patients treated with standard chemotherapy and radiotherapy protocols.

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