Epstein-Barr virus and Burkitt lymphoma

Martin Rowe, Leah Fitzsimmons, Andrew Bell

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In 1964, a new herpesvirus, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), was discovered in cultured tumor cells derived from a Burkitt lymphoma (BL) biopsy taken from an African patient. This was a momentous event that reinvigorated research into viruses as a possible cause of human cancers. Subsequent studies demonstrated that the EBV was a potent growth-transforming agent for primary B cells, and that all cases of BL carried characteristic chromosomal translocations resulting in constitutive activation of the c-MYC oncogene. These results hinted at simple oncogenic mechanisms that would make Burkitt lymphoma paradigmatic for cancers with viral etiology. In reality, the pathogenesis of this tumor is rather more complicated with regard to both the contribution of the virus and the involvement of cellular oncogenes. Here, we review the current understanding of the roles of EBV and c-MYC in the pathogenesis of BL and the implications for new therapeutic strategies to treat this lymphoma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)606-619
JournalChinese Journal of Cancer
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 21 Nov 2014


  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Burkitt lymphoma
  • tumor virus
  • Malaria
  • c-myc


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