We conducted the first analysis of viral microRNAs (miRNAs) in lung cancer, with a focus on Epstein–Barr virus (EBV).
We evaluated viral miRs with a two-channel oligo-array targeting mature, anti-sense miRNAs in 290 cases. In 48 cases, we compared microarray and real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) expression for three EBV miRNAs. We tested for EBV DNA, RNA, and protein in tumour tissue from six cases with and six cases without strong qPCR-based evidence of EBV miRNAs.
The EBV miRNAs strongly differentiated between adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma using the microarray (P<0.01 for 9 out of 16 EBV miRNAs). However, microarray and qPCR measurements of BART1, BART2, and BHRF1–3 expression were not significantly correlated (P=0.53, 0.94, and 0.47, respectively). Although qPCR provided substantial evidence of EBV miRNAs in 7 out of 48 cases, only 1 of these 7 cases had detectable EBV DNA in tumour tissue. None had detectable EBV RNA or protein by histochemical stains.
In a comprehensive evaluation of EBV miRNA, DNA, RNA, and protein in lung cancer, we found little evidence of EBV in lung tumour tissue. Discrepancies between microarray- and qPCR-based strategies highlight the difficulty of validating molecular markers of disease. Our results do not support a role of EBV in lung cancer.