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J Virol. 2002 Nov;76(21):10951-9.

Use of adenovirus vectors expressing Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) immediate-early protein BZLF1 or BRLF1 to treat EBV-positive tumors.

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  • 1Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7295, USA.


The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) genome is present in a variety of tumor types, including virtually all undifferentiated nasopharyngeal carcinomas (NPC) and a portion of gastric carcinomas. The uniform presence of the EBV genome in certain tumors (versus only a very small number of normal B cells) suggests that novel therapies which specifically target EBV-positive cells for destruction might be effective for treating such tumors. Although the great majority of EBV-positive tumor cells are infected with one of the latent forms of EBV infection, expression of either viral immediate-early protein (BZLF1 or BRLF1) is sufficient to convert the virus to the lytic form of infection. Induction of the lytic form of EBV infection could potentially result in death of the tumor cell. Here we have examined the efficacy of adenovirus vectors expressing the BZLF1 or BRLF1 proteins for treatment of EBV-positive epithelial tumors. The BZLF1 and BRLF1 vectors induced preferential killing of EBV-positive, versus EBV-negative, gastric carcinoma cells in vitro. Infection of C18 NPC tumors (grown in nude mice) with either the BZLF1 or BRLF1 vector, but not a control adenovirus vector, induced expression of early lytic EBV genes in tumor cells. Injection of C18 tumors with the BZLF1 or BRLF1 adenovirus vector, but not the control vector, also significantly inhibited growth of the tumors in nude mice. The addition of ganciclovir did not significantly affect the antitumor effect of the BZLF1 and BRLF1 adenovirus vectors. These results suggest a potential cancer therapy against EBV-related tumors.

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