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Prevalence of human polyomaviruses in common and rare types of non-Merkel cell carcinoma skin cancer


  • Funding sources
    The German National Reference Centre for Papilloma- and Polyomaviruses (German Federal Ministry of Health, grant no. 1369-401) funded the HPyV analyses.

  • Conflicts of interest
    None declared.

Nina Scola.


Background  Little is known about the association of human polyomaviruses (HPyVs) other than Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) with nonmelanoma skin cancer.

Objectives  To evaluate the presence of HPyV6, HPyV7, trichodysplasia spinulosa-associated polyomavirus (TSV), also called HPyV8, and the recently discovered HPyV9 in basal cell carcinoma (BCC), actinic keratosis (AK), squamous cell carcinoma in situ (SCCis), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), keratoacanthoma (KA), microcystic adnexal carcinoma (MAC) and atypical fibroxanthoma (AFX).

Methods  Archival paraffin-embedded samples (= 193: 41 BCC, 31 AK, 8 SCCis, 52 SCC, 42 KA, 5 MAC and 14 AFX) were analysed for the presence of the respective HPyV by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). HPyV DNA loads (HPyV DNA copies per β-globin gene copy) were determined in all HPyV-positive samples by quantitative real-time PCR. Immunohistochemical analysis of MCPyV large T-antigen (LTA) expression was performed using the monoclonal antibody CM2B4.

Results  MCPyV DNA was found in 29% of BCC, 19% of AK, 25% of SCCis, 27% of SCC, 29% of KA, 0% of MAC and 29% of AFX. MCPyV DNA loads never exceeded 0·3 MCPyV DNA copies per β-globin gene copy (median 0·004). In the immunohistochemical analysis of MCPyV LTA expression, all evaluated samples (32 MCPyV DNA-positive samples) were LTA negative. HPyV6 DNA was found in 7% of BCC, 3% of AK, 12% of SCCis, 4% of SCC, 5% of KA, and 0% of MAC and AFX. HPyV6 DNA loads never exceeded 0·7 HPyV6 DNA copies per β-globin gene copy (median 0·015). None of the 193 samples was positive for HPyV7, TSV or HPyV9 DNA.

Conclusions  Our findings argue against a pathogenic role for MCPyV, HPyV6, HPyV7, TSV and HPyV9 in the analysed types of non-Merkel cell carcinoma skin cancer.