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Title: Distribution of Epstein-Barr viral load in serum of individuals from nasopharyngeal carcinoma high-risk families in Taiwan.
Authors: Yang X,  Goldstein AM,  Chen CJ,  Rabkin CS,  Chen JY,  Cheng YJ,  Hsu WL,  Sun B,  Diehl SR,  Liu MY,  Walters M,  Shao W,  Ortiz-Conde BA,  Whitby D,  Elmore SH,  Gulley ML,  Hildesheim A
Journal: Int J Cancer
Date: 2006 Feb 1
Branches: GEB, IIB, MEB
PubMed ID: 16106400
PMC ID: not available
Abstract: The utility of EBV load as a tumor marker in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) patients suggests that it might also serve as a screening test for individuals who are at high risk for developing NPC. We previously demonstrated that unaffected individuals from high-risk families had elevated anti-EBV antibody levels compared to community controls. In this study, we measured EBV load using 2 different real-time PCR assays (targeting BamH1W and polymerase gene sequences, respectively) carried out in 2 independent research labs in serum samples from 19 untreated NPC cases, 11 healthy community controls and 100 unaffected individuals from families in which 2 or more individuals were affected with NPC. EBV genomes were detectable in 68% of NPC cases by the EBV BamH1W assay and in 74% by the EBV polymerase assay (kappa = 0.64). Patients with stage III or IV disease had significantly higher EBV load compared to those with stage I or II disease (p = 0.008). EBV DNA was detected in a single community control sample by the EBV BamH1W assay and in none of the samples by the EBV polymerase assay. Only one of 100 unaffected family members tested positive by both assays. An additional 14 were positive by only one of the 2 EBV load assays used and usually in only one of the duplicate wells tested, all with very low viral loads (3-50 copies/ml). In addition, EBV load did not correlate with EBV serology results (anti-VCA, anti-DNase, anti-EBNA-1) among these unaffected family members. In conclusion, our study suggests limited clinical utility of the EBV load test, in its current configuration, to screen individuals from high-risk families. Should a more sensitive or specific molecular assay be developed that is capable of detecting and distinguishing tumor-derived EBV genomes or gene products from true negatives, it could be evaluated as a possible screening tool for asymptomatic and early-stage NPC.