Immunologic evidence of a strong association between non-Hodgkin lymphoma and simian virus 40

Cancer. 2015 Aug 1;121(15):2618-26. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29404. Epub 2015 Apr 15.


Background: Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), the most common cancer of the lymphatic system, is of unknown etiology. The identification of etiologic factors in the onset of NHL is a key event that could facilitate the prevention and cure of this malignancy. Simian virus 40 (SV40) has been considered an oncogenic agent in the onset/progression of NHL.

Methods: In this study, an indirect enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with 2 synthetic peptides that mimic SV40 antigens of viral capsid proteins 1 to 3 was employed to detect specific antibodies against SV40. Serum samples were taken from 2 distinct cohorts of NHL-affected patients (NHL1 [n = 89] and NHL2 [n = 61]) along with controls represented by oncologic patients affected by breast cancer (BC; n = 78) and undifferentiated nasopharyngeal carcinoma (UNPC; n = 64) and 3 different cohorts of healthy subjects (HSs; HS1 [n = 130], HS2 [n = 83], and HS3 [n = 87]).

Results: Immunologic data indicated that in serum samples from NHL patients, antibodies against SV40 mimotopes were detectable with a prevalence of 40% in NHL1 patients and with a prevalence of 43% in NHL2 patients. In HSs of the same median age as NHL patients, the prevalence was 16% for the HS1 group (57 years) and 14% for the HS2 group (65 years). The difference was statistically significant (P < .0001 and P < .001). Interestingly, the difference between NHL1/NHL2 patients and BC patients (40%/43% vs 15%, P < .001) and between NHL1/NHL2 patients and UNPC patients (40%/43% vs 25%, P < .05) was significant.

Conclusions: Our data indicate a strong association between NHL and SV40 and thus a need for innovative therapeutic approaches for this hematologic malignancy.

Keywords: NHL; SV40; antibody; immunology; serum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Capsid Proteins / immunology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / classification
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / immunology
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / virology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polyomavirus Infections / complications*
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Simian virus 40 / isolation & purification*
  • Tumor Virus Infections / classification
  • Tumor Virus Infections / virology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Capsid Proteins