AIMS: To investigate the presence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) in cases of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) in Chinese patients living in Hong Kong. METHODS: Nasopharyngeal biopsy specimens, formalin fixed and paraffin wax embedded, from 24 patients, eight with undifferentiated nasopharyngeal carcinoma, eight with well differentiated squamous carcinoma, and eight showing normal tissue histology, were analysed for the presence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) DNA by slot-blot hybridisation on extracted unamplified DNA, and also after amplification of EBV specific sequences by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). RESULTS: DNA slot-blot analysis showed viral DNA in all the undifferentiated, five of the well differentiated tumours, and none of the normal biopsy specimens. PCR studies confirmed positivity in the eight undifferentiated tumours, but six of the well differentiated tumours and three of the normal biopsy specimens showed viral DNA by this method, illustrating its greater sensitivity. CONCLUSIONS: EBV genome is present in appreciable copy number in most cases of well differentiated NPC in Chinese patients in Hong Kong.
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