Immunotherapy for Epstein-Barr virus-associated cancers in children

Karin C.M. Straathof, Catherine M. Bollard, Cliona M. Rooney, Helen E. Heslop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Latent Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection is associated with several malignancies, including Burkitt's lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, and post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease (LPD). The presence of EBV antigens in these tumors provides a target for immunotherapy approaches, and immunotherapy with EBV-specific cytotoxic T cells (CTLs) has proved effective in post-transplant LPDs, which are highly immunogenic tumors expressing type III latency. The malignant cells in Hodgkin's disease and nasopharyngeal carcinoma express type II latency and hence a more restricted pattern of EBV antigens. Trials with autologous EBV-specific CTL responses are under way in both of these diseases, and while some activity has been seen, no patient has yet been cured. This reduced CTL efficacy may reflect either downregulation of immunodominant EBV proteins, which are major CTL targets, or the ability of these tumors to evade the immune response by secreting inhibitory cytokines. Further improvement of EBV-specific CTL therapy for these type II latency tumors will require improved methods to activate and expand CTLs specific for the subdominant EBV genes expressed and to genetically modify the expanded CTLs to render them resistant to inhibitory cytokines. If these strategies to improve the therapeutic potential of immunotherapy for EBV-associated tumors prove successful, this type of treatment may be adapted to other tumors expressing known (viral) antigens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-98
Number of pages16
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003


  • Cytotoxic T cells
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Immunotherapy
  • Lymphoproliferative disease
  • Transplantation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Hematology


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