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Virology. 2003 Feb 15;306(2):236-43.

Absence of Epstein-Barr virus DNA in the tumor cells of European hepatocellular carcinoma.

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Department of Pathology, University of Birmingham, B15 2TT, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK.


The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has recently been associated with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) arising in Japanese patients. We analyzed 82 cases of HCC from Germany and the U.K. for the presence of EBV DNA and viral gene products within tumor cells. Initial screening of whole sections using quantitative (Q)-PCR detected EBV DNA in 9/58 U.K. cases and in 9/24 German cases; in positive cases viral load was very low, ranging between 1.4 and 49.1 copies of the EBV genome/1000 cell equivalents, compared to much higher values for EBV-positive Hodgkin's disease and nasopharyngeal carcinoma controls (range, 714-3259/1000 cells). EBV DNA was not detected in the tumor cells of any of the Q-PCR-positive cases either by Q-PCR of pure tumor cell populations isolated by laser capture microdissection or by isotopic in situ hybridization. Furthermore, none of the German or U.K. HCC tumors tested positive for EBER or EBNAI expression in tumor cells. Our results provide strong evidence that HCCs from the U.K. or Germany are not associated with EBV.

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