Studies by Dr. Tan led a way forward for development of vaccine against Epstein-Barr virus. EPV is the leading cause for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma and other opportunistic cancers in a weak immune system. It is a member of the herpes virus family. It infects the throat epithelial and immune cells called B cells. The virus makes these infected cells invisible to natural killer T (NKT) that finds and destroys EBV-infected cells. Samples were taken from removed infected tonsils. These cells were infected with EBV and then some combined with NKT cells. Results showed more NKT cells led to lesser EBV-infected cells and vice versa.
Dr. Tan concludes, “If you can force these invisible proteins to be expressed, then you can render infected cells visible to NKT cells, and defeat the virus. This could be key to making a vaccine that would provide immunity from ever being infected with EBV.”