Recently, wild-type SV40 and/or DNA sequences indistinguishable from SV40 have been detected in specific types of human tumors: ependymoma and choroid plexus tumors, mesothelioma, osteosarcoma and sarcoma. The same tumor types will develop in hamsters after injection with SV40. These findings are interesting in themselves for they could shed light on the pathogenesis of these tumors. These findings also have public health implications. SV40 was found to have contaminated the poliovaccines and the adenovaccines from 1955 until 1963, therefore resulting in the inadvertent injection of millions of people with this tumor virus. Moreover, our society pays a high cost for asbestos causality, a carcinogen associated with the development of mesothelioma. In addition to asbestos, the potential impact of finding another possible cause for mesothelioma (i.e., SV40), as well as the possible pathogenic role of the contaminated poliovaccines, has generated considerable public interest and concern. To discuss these recent findings, the NIH (National Institutes of Health) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), organized an International Conference at the NIH, Bethesda, MD, January 27-28, 1997. The association of SV40 with human mesothelioma was also discussed in a special session at the IV International Mesothelioma Conference that was held at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, May 13-16, 1997. The purpose of this review is to summarize data, from the discovery of the contaminated poliovaccines, to the most recent findings presented at the meetings in Bethesda and Philadelphia, to discuss technical and other problems associated with this research, and the potential for using these findings to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for SV40-associated malignancies.