CD4 and CD8 T cell responses to tumour-associated Epstein-Barr virus antigens in nasopharyngeal carcinoma patients

XR Lin, Nancy Gudgeon, EP Hui, Hui Jia, X Qun, Graham Taylor, Mcnm Barnardo, CK Lin, Alan Rickinson, ATC Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Citations (Scopus)


Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC), an Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated tumour common in Southern Chinese populations, is a potentially important target for T cell-based immunotherapy. The tumour cells are HLA class I- and II-positive and express a limited subset of EBV latent proteins, namely the nuclear antigen EBNA1 and the latent membrane proteins LMP2 and (in some cases) LMP1. To ask whether the tumour develops in the presence of a potentially protective host response or in its absence, we set out to determine the prevailing levels of CD4+ and CD8+ T cell memory to these proteins in NPC patients at tumour diagnosis. We first screened healthy Chinese donors against Chinese strain EBNA1, LMP1 and LMP2 sequences in Elispot assays of interferon-gamma release and identified the immunodominant CD4+ and CD8+ epitope peptides presented by common Chinese HLA alleles. Then, comparing 60 patients with > 70 healthy controls on peptide epitope mini-panels, we found that T cell memory to CD4 epitopes in all three proteins was unimpaired in the blood of patients at diagnosis. In most cases NPC patients also showed detectable responses to CD8 epitopes relevant to their HLA type, the one consistent exception being the absence in patients of a B*4001-restricted response to LMP2. We infer that NPC arises in patients whose prevailing levels of T cell memory to tumour-associated EBV proteins is largely intact; the therapeutic goal must therefore be to re-direct the existing memory repertoire more effectively against antigen-expressing tumour cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)963-975
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Immunology Immunotherapy
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


  • T cell
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  • CD4
  • CD8


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