Simian virus 40 transformation, malignant mesothelioma and brain tumors

Expert Rev Respir Med. 2011 Oct;5(5):683-97. doi: 10.1586/ers.11.51.


Simian virus 40 (SV40) is a DNA virus isolated in 1960 from contaminated polio vaccines, that induces mesotheliomas, lymphomas, brain and bone tumors, and sarcomas, including osteosarcomas, in hamsters. These same tumor types have been found to contain SV40 DNA and proteins in humans. Mesotheliomas and brain tumors are the two tumor types that have been most consistently associated with SV40, and the range of positivity has varied about from 6 to 60%, although a few reported 100% of positivity and a few reported 0%. It appears unlikely that SV40 infection alone is sufficient to cause human malignancy, as we did not observe an epidemic of cancers following the administration of SV40-contaminated vaccines. However, it seems possible that SV40 may act as a cofactor in the pathogenesis of some tumors. In vitro and animal experiments showing cocarcinogenicity between SV40 and asbestos support this hypothesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Neoplasms / virology*
  • Cell Transformation, Viral*
  • DNA, Viral / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Mesothelioma / virology*
  • Polyomavirus Infections / complications
  • Polyomavirus Infections / virology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Simian virus 40 / genetics
  • Simian virus 40 / pathogenicity*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / complications
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology*


  • DNA, Viral