• polyomavirus;
  • herpesvirus;
  • lymphoma;
  • simian virus 40



The association of viruses with several human tumors has been studied for almost 100 years, and it remains a very controversial issue. Due to the fact that the presence of polyomaviruses and herpes viruses reportedly are associated with lymphomas, albeit with striking results and differences between the many studies, the authors undertook a study into the presence of viral sequences of polyomavirus (BK virus, JC virus, and especially simian virus 40 [SV40]) in human lymphomas in an attempt to explain this contradictory association. To complete the study, the presence of different virus types from the herpesviriridae family were analyzed, such as herpesvirus type 6 (HHV6), HHV7, HHV8, and Epstein–Barr virus, in human lymphomas.


DNA was isolated from 83 frozen human lymphoma samples, and different polymerase chain reaction techniques were used to find polyomavirus and herpesvirus sequences in these samples. To assess the incidence of the presence of sequences in lymphomas, a parallel analysis was made of 53 samples from normal donor spleen lymphocytes. Positive samples were analyzed for polyomavirus sequences by immunohistochemistry.


Polyomavirus sequences were detected in 9 of 83 lymphomas (11%), and SV40 sequences could be confirmed in only 1 lymphoma. Immunohistochemistry for large-T antigen was negative in all samples. Herpesviruses were detected in 53 of 83 lymphomas (63.9%), were detected more frequently in Hodgkin lymphomas (80%) than in non-Hodgkin lymphomas (58.7%), and were detected in > 60% of normal spleen lymphocytes.


The current results did not support a clear association of polyomavirus and HHV6 or HHV7 with lymphomas; HHV6 and HHV7 sequences were detected in a similar percentage of normal samples and lymphomas. The lack of significant differences between normal and malignant lymphocytes and the absence of viral protein expression in the tumor cells did not allow the establishment of a clinical correlation between polyomaviruses or HHVs (HHV6, HHV7, HHV8) and lymphomas. Nevertheless, because viral products can be lost during tumor progression, and because host factors can modulate the oncogenic role of some viruses, the hypothetical role of these viruses cannot be discarded completely. Cancer 2005. © 2004 American Cancer Society.