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Pathol Res Pract. 2011 Nov 15;207(11):695-700. doi: 10.1016/j.prp.2011.09.007. Epub 2011 Oct 24.

Investigation of Epstein-Barr virus in breast carcinomas in Tunisia.

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Department of Pathology, Farhat Hached Hospital, Sousse 4000, Tunisia.


Breast carcinoma is a major cause of death among women, and the potential implication of viruses in its pathogenesis remains worth a hypothesis. The potential role of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in its pathogenesis is still a subject of continued discussion and investigation. The aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of EBV in sporadic breast cancers in Tunisia, and to determine the clinicopathological characteristics of virus-positive cases. Viral presence has been evaluated by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), in situ hybridization, and immunohistochemistry investigated on tumor tissues and their corresponding normal breast tissues collected from 123 Tunisian women with sporadic breast carcinomas. Viral status in tumors was then correlated with various clinicopathological parameters. Using specific PCR assays, EBV DNA was found in 33 (27%) out of 123 breast carcinoma cases. EBV-encoded small RNAs (EBERs) in situ hybridization was negative in the neoplastic cells, but stomal lymphocytes were positive in 4 cases. Immunohistochemistry for latent membrane protein 1 (LMP1) was negative in all cases. None of the normal breast tissues showed positive results for EBV using PCR, in situ hybridization, and immunohistochemistry. A correlation was found between EBV DNA presence and the negativity of estrogen receptor (P=0.008). However, no significant correlation was found for the other parameters investigated, including patient age, Scarff-Bloom-Richardson (SBR) histological grade, tumor size, and histological node involvement. With regard to survival data, overall and disease-free survivals were shorter in EBV-positive breast carcinoma cases than in EBV-negative ones, but this difference did not reach statistical significance. Our study indicates the presence of EBV DNA in a significant proportion of breast cancer in Tunisia. Further studies are required to elucidate the role of this virus in breast carcinogenesis.

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