Lymphoepithelioma of the nasopharynx has a strong association with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). To test the hypothesis that lymphoepithelioma-like carcinomas occurring at other sites are also associated with EBV virus, we used in situ hybridization to analyze 20 cases of lymphoepithelioma and histologically similar lesions and five basaloid squamous cell carcinomas for evidence of EBV genomes. EBV genomes were demonstrated in six of six lymphoepitheliomas of the nasopharynx but in none of five basaloid squamous cell carcinomas. Only one of 14 lymphoepithelioma-like carcinomas was found to contain EBV genomes. The single positive lymphoepithelioma-like carcinoma occurred in the lung of an Asian patient, suggesting that ethnic or geographic influences may be important in determining whether EBV is associated with these nonnasopharyngeal neoplasms. Despite their histologic similarity, most lymphoepithelioma-like carcinomas probably have a different pathogenesis from nasopharyngeal lymphoepithelioma.
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