HLA associations with nasopharyngeal carcinoma

Xin Li, Ross Fasano, Ena Wang, Kai Tai Yao, Francesco M. Marincola

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

33 Citations (Scopus)


Several associations have been described between the frequency of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class I genes in certain populations and the risk of developing nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). Associations between ethnic background and geographic distribution, and relative disease incidence have been reported. Populations in geographical areas at higher risk of developing NPC display HLA distribution patterns different and sometimes opposite from areas of low incidence, whereas populations in areas with intermediate incidence display a totally independent pattern. Two main reasons may explain this association between HLA phenotype distribution and the risk of developing NPC in various populations. First, given the fact that expression of Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) proteins by cancer cells is tightly linked with NPC development, HLA may influence the development of NPC by modulating the expression of EBV proteins. This explanation is, however, based primarily on theoretical assumptions given that no clear definition of HLA binding pattern of EBV epitopes has been directly shown to significantly alter the recognition of EBV proteins and the risk of developing the disease. Alternatively, HLA may represent a genetic marker flagging the presence of a NPC predisposition locus in close linkage disequilibrium with the HLA class I region. A critical review of known HLA associations in various geographical areas and their interpretation will be presented in this review.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-765
Number of pages15
JournalCurrent Molecular Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2009



  • Disease associations
  • Epstein - Barr virus
  • Human leukocyte antigen
  • Nasopharyngeal carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology

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