Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma

Morphology
  • Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma is a type of squamous cell carcinoma with neoplastic cells that can look similar to those of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin or are completely undifferentiated. Whatever the morphology, the tumor is often heavily infiltrated with non-neoplastic lymphocytes.
Pathophysiology
  • Although quite rare, nasopharyngeal carcinoma is linked to infection with Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and particular populations in Africa and China. Consequently, the pathogenesis likely depends on both virus-dependent oncogenesis along with a susceptible genetic background. EBV is detected in the neoplastic cells of nearly all nasopharyngeal carcinomas. Neoplastic cells are likely the transformed progeny of EBV-infected epithelial cells of the nasal mucosa. Non-neoplastic lymphocytes present in the tumors are likely T-cells attempting to kill EBV-infected epithelial cells. This stands in contrast to Burkitt Lymphoma where the EBV-transformed neoplastic cells are the lymphocytes themselves.