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Br J Cancer. 2009 Oct 20;101(8):1351-6. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6605328. Epub 2009 Sep 22.

Koilocytes indicate a role for human papilloma virus in breast cancer.

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School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.



High-risk human papilloma viruses (HPVs) are candidates as causal viruses in breast cancer. The scientific challenge is to determine whether HPVs are causal and not merely passengers or parasites. Studies of HPV-related koilocytes in breast cancer offer an opportunity to address this crucial issue. Koilocytes are epithelial cells characterised by perinuclear haloes surrounding condensed nuclei and are commonly present in cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. Koilocytosis is accepted as pathognomonic (characteristic of a particular disease) of HPV infection. The aim of this investigation is to determine whether putative koilocytes in normal and malignant breast tissues are because of HPV infection.


Archival formalin-fixed normal and malignant breast specimens were investigated by histology, in situ PCR with confirmation of the findings by standard PCR and sequencing of the products, plus immunohistochemistry to identify HPV E6 oncoproteins.


human papilloma virus-associated koilocytes were present in normal breast skin and lobules and in the breast skin and cancer tissue of patients with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and invasive ductal carcinomas (IDCs).


As koilocytes are known to be the precursors of some HPV-associated cervical cancer, it follows that HPVs may be causally associated with breast cancer.

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