Background: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma has increased in frequency over the past 30 years, and is a common cancer in HIV-1-infected patients. Although no definite risk factors have emerged, a viral cause has been postulated. Polyomaviruses are known to infect human beings and to induce tumours in laboratory animals. We aimed to identify which one of the three polyomaviruses able to infect human beings (simian virus 40 [SV40], JC virus, and BK virus) was associated with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Methods: We analysed systemic non-Hodgkin lymphoma from 76 HIV-1-infected and 78 HIV-1-uninfected patients, and non-malignant lymphoid samples from 79 HIV-1-positive and 107 HIV-1-negative patients without tumours; 54 colon and breast carcinoma samples served as cancer controls. We used PCR followed by Southern blot hybridisation and DNA sequence analysis to detect DNAs of polyomaviruses and herpesviruses.
Findings: Polyomavirus T antigen sequences, all of which were SV40-specific, were detected in 64 (42%) of 154 non-Hodgkin lymphomas, none of 186 non-malignant lymphoid samples, and none of 54 control cancers. This difference was similar for HIV-1-infected patients and HIV-1-uninfected patients alike. Few tumours were positive for both SV40 and Epstein-Barr virus. Human herpesvirus type 8 was not detected. SV40 sequences were found most frequently in diffuse large B-cell and follicular-type lymphomas.
Interpretation: SV40 is significantly associated with some types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. These results add lymphomas to the types of human cancers associated with SV40.