The Role of SV40 in Malignant Mesothelioma and Other Human Malignancies

Inhalation Toxicology. 2006 Nov;18(12):995-1000. [Link]

Pershouse MA, Heivly S, Girtsman T.

Center for Environmental Health Sciences, Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, USA.


SV40 is a DNA tumor virus thrust upon human populations primarily as a contaminant in various vaccine preparations. Some estimates suggest that millions of people are currently infected with the virus. The virus causes primary brain tumors, bone tumors, lymphomas, and mesotheliomas when injected into some rodent models. It has also been detected in a similar spectrum of human tumors. However, epidemiological studies have failed to conclusively demonstrate a higher incidence of disease in affected populations. To date, over 60 reports from 49 different laboratories have shown SV40 sequences in tissues from human cancer patients. Six studies, however, have failed to detect evidence of virus in similar tissues. Some have suggested that SV40 may act as a cocarcinogen with asbestos to cause mesothelioma formation, or that it may be responsible for the 10-20% of mesotheliomas with no reported history of asbestos exposure. This report briefly covers the historical evidence for SV40 carcinogenesis and then covers experiments now underway to better understand the role of SV40 in human mesotheliomas.