A review of the cytomorphology of Epstein-Barr virus-associated malignancies

Michelow P. ; Wright C. ; Pantanowitz L. (2012)


The Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a member of the herpes family of viruses and is very common in humans. EBV is most often associated with infectious mononucleosis. However, it is estimated that 1% of tumors including lymphoproliferative, epithelial and mesenchymal are linked to EBV infection. EBV has a tropism for certain epithelial cells, lymphocytes and myocytes. Like other herpesviruses, EBV has both lytic and latent phases of infection. In the latent form, EBV-encoded genes ensure the survival of the viral genome, allowing it to circumvent the host's immune surveillance by limited expression of viral proteins and carries with it the risk of neoplastic transformation. Cytologists are likely to encounter EBV-associated malignancies in cytology material but unlike other herpesviruses, EBV does not evoke a viral cytopathic effect. The manifestation of EBV-related tumors is also often variable depending upon the patient's immune status. Therefore, knowledge of the patient's EBV status and immune competence (e.g. HIV-infection or transplant-related immunosuppression) combined with the cytomorphology and results of ancillary studies are often all required to make a diagnosis of EBV-associated malignancy. This review discusses the unique cytomorphology and ancillary studies required to diagnose EBV-related neoplasms. © 2012 S. Karger AG, Basel.

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