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Br J Cancer. 1993 Dec;68(6):1232-5.

Are plant factors a missing link in the evolution of endemic Burkitt's lymphoma?

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Department of Virology, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK.


Burkitt's lymphoma, an Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated non-Hodgkin's malignant lymphoma is endemic in an area of Africa known as the Lymphoma Belt. This zone is demarcated by climatic requirements of temperature and rainfall. EBV-activating plant factors are among several co-factors which have been proposed for the development of epidemic Burkitt's Lymphoma (eBL). The distribution of Euphorbia tirucalli, a plant which possesses EBV-activating substances and can induce the characteristic 8:14 translocation of eBL in EBV-infected lymphoblastic cell lines in vitro, conforms closely to the climatic requirements of the Lymphoma. This plant, other EBV-activating plants and plants of unknown EBV-activating status with medicinal uses, are found significantly more often at the homes of eBL patients in Malawi than in those of controls. The possible role of these plant factors in the pathogenesis of eBL and their routes of bodily access are discussed. It is postulated that the associations described in this paper provide support for the theory that EBV-activating plants are co-factors involved in the pathogenesis of some cases of eBL.

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