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New developments about the association of SV40 with human mesothelioma


Simian virus 40 (SV40) has been detected in human tumors in over 40 different laboratories. Many of these reports linked SV40 to human mesotheliomas. The Vaccine Safety Committee of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), National Academy of Sciences, USA, recently reviewed the evidence associating polio vaccines and/or SV40 with human tumors. The IOM conclusions about polio vaccines and human cancer were: (1) ‘the evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relation between SV40-containing polio vaccines and cancer’ because the ‘epidemiological studies are sufficiently flawed’; (2) ‘the biological evidence is of moderate strength that SV40 exposure from the polio vaccines is related to SV40 infection in humans’. The epidemiological studies were considered flawed because it was not possible to distinguish reliably among exposed and nonexposed cohorts. Concerning SV40, the IOM concluded that (1) ‘the evidence is strong that SV40 is a transforming virus; (2) the evidence is of moderate strength that SV40 exposure could lead to cancer in humans under natural conditions’ (IOM, 2002).

Similar conclusions were reached at an International consensus meeting on SV40 and human tumors held at the University of Chicago in 2001. G Klein and C Croce, who chaired the final panel that reviewed all the published evidence linking SV40 to human tumors, stated that ‘the presence of SV40 in human tumors has been convincingly demonstrated’ (Klein et al., 2002). In addition, a workshop organized by the Biological Carcinogenesis Branch of the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, chaired by J Pagano, has reached similar conclusions (Wong et al., 2002). Therefore, three independent scientific panels have all agreed that there is compelling evidence that SV40 is present in some human cancers and that SV40 could contribute to the pathogenesis of some of them. It should be noted that the presence of SV40 in mesothelioma and other human tumor types has been challenged by a research team that has consistently reported negative findings (Strickler et al., 2001). However, a member of this research team has recently acknowledged – in sworn testimony –sensitivity problems and possible irregularities that raise concerns about these negative reports (MacLachlan, 2002). These revelations, together with the conclusions of the three independent panels mentioned above, appear to bring to an end the apparent controversy about the presence of SV40 in human mesotheliomas and brain tumors.

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Supported by grants from the National Cancer Institute, The Cancer Research Foundation of America, The Riviera Country Club in Orland Park the American Cancer Society to Michele Carbone.

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Carbone, M., Pass, H., Miele, L. et al. New developments about the association of SV40 with human mesothelioma. Oncogene 22, 5173–5180 (2003).

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  • SV40
  • mesothelioma
  • human cancer

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