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Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 Feb;132(1):267-74. doi: 10.1007/s10549-011-1841-3. Epub 2011 Nov 1.

Epstein-Barr virus is seldom found in mammary epithelium of breast cancer tissue using in situ molecular methods.

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Department of Family Health Care Nursing, University of California San Francisco, 2 Koret Way, N431-M, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) has been proposed as a possible etiological agent of breast cancer based on 21 reports of EBV in malignant breast tissues. Most of these studies used standard and nested solution polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques, both disadvantaged by susceptibility to contamination from laboratory EBV, and the inability to localize the signal to a specific cell type. To avoid these issues, we used in situ molecular methods of viral detection to reassess the frequency of EBV in malignant breast tissue. We used a commercial in situ hybridization (ISH) system with an EBER genome target, and a non-commercial in situ PCR (IS-PCR) method using primers specific for the BamH1 region. The assays were performed on malignant breast tissue sections from 70 breast cancer patients at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX. EBV was found in mammary epithelial cells, the cell type from which most breast cancers arise, in 2/70 (2.9%) of specimens using IS-PCR and in none of the specimens using ISH. Based on these findings that EBV was present in human mammary epithelial cells so infrequently, it is unlikely to play a causative role in most types of breast cancer.

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