Infectious agents in human cancers: Lessons in immunity and immunomodulation from gammaherpesviruses EBV and KSHV

Graham S. Taylor, David J. Blackbourn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Members of the herpesvirus family have evolved the ability to persist in their hosts by establishing a reservoir of latently infected cells each carrying the viral genome with reduced levels of viral protein synthesis. In order to spread within and between hosts, in some cells, the quiescent virus will reactivate and enter lytic cycle replication to generate and release new infectious virus particles. To allow the efficient generation of progeny viruses, all herpesviruses have evolved a wide variety of immunomodulatory mechanisms to limit the exposure of cells undergoing lytic cycle replication to the immune system. Here we have focused on the human gammaherpesviruses Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) that, uniquely among the eight human herpesviruses identified to date, have growth transforming potential. Most people infected with these viruses will not develop cancer, viral growth-transforming activity being kept under control by the host's antigen-specific immune responses. Nonetheless, EBV and KSHV are associated with several malignancies in which various viral proteins, either predominantly or exclusively latency-associated, are expressed; at least some of these proteins also have immunomodulatory activities. Of these malignancies, some are the result of a disrupted virus/immune balance through genetic, infectious or iatrogenic immune suppression. Others develop in people that are not overtly immune suppressed and likely modulate the immunological response. This latter aspect of immune modulation by EBV and KSHV forms the basis of this review.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-278
Number of pages16
JournalCancer Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors apologise to colleagues whose work could not be cited due to space constraints. DJB’s work is currently supported by the Medical Research Council (G0800154) and Cancer Research, UK (C7934). GST’s work is supported by the Medical Research Council (G0801936) with additional funding from Cancer Research, UK supporting translational work.


  • BL
  • Burkitt
  • HL
  • Hodgkin
  • Immune modulation
  • Kaposi
  • Lymphoma
  • Nasopharyngeal
  • NPC
  • PEL
  • Sarcoma
  • Tumor
  • Virus


Dive into the research topics of 'Infectious agents in human cancers: Lessons in immunity and immunomodulation from gammaherpesviruses EBV and KSHV'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this