• Epstein–Barr virus;
  • lymphoma;
  • adenocarcinoma;
  • ulcerative colitis;
  • Crohn's disease;
  • immunosuppression;
  • large intestine


Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) is associated with several lymphoid and epithelial human malignancies. The latter include gastric adenocarcinomas, while sporadic colorectal adenocarcinomas (CRCs) have been reported to be EBV-negative. Recently, increased numbers of EBV-infected B lymphocytes have been detected in intestinal mucosal samples affected by ulcerative colitis (UC) and, to a lesser extent, Crohn's disease (CD). Both CRC and colorectal non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) are recognized complications of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), but it is unclear to what extent EBV contributes to the development of these neoplasms. Seventeen cases of IBD-associated CRC and nine cases of IBD-associated colorectal NHL were therefore studied for the presence of EBV by in situ hybridization. EBV-positive cases were further studied for the expression of the EBV-encoded nuclear antigen (EBNA) 2 and the latent membrane protein (LMP) 1 of EBV by immunohistochemistry. Four out of seven cases of colorectal NHL associated with UC were shown to be EBV-positive. In addition, two of two colorectal NHLs developing in patients with CD were EBV-positive. Of the EBV-positive lymphomas, three displayed a pattern of EBV latent gene expression consistent with type I latency (EBNA2/LMP1), two a type II pattern (EBNA2/LMP1+), and one a type III pattern (EBNA2+/LMP1+). These findings suggest that EBV infection is involved in the pathogenesis of a proportion of colorectal NHLs developing in IBD. Iatrogenic immunosuppression may contribute to the development of these lymphomas. By contrast, all 17 IBD-associated CRCs were EBV-negative, including a case of CRC occurring synchronously with an EBV-positive NHL. In conjunction with previous reports on sporadic CRCs, this suggests that EBV is not involved in the pathogenesis of CRC. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.