News & CommentCancer Research

Monkey Virus DNA Found in Rare Human Cancers

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Science  07 Feb 1997:
Vol. 275, Issue 5301, pp. 748-749
DOI: 10.1126/science.275.5301.748

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In the early 1960s, the discovery that some batches of polio vaccine administered in the 1950s were contaminated with a virus that causes tumors in experimental animals stirred worries that it might do so in humans. That concern was laid to rest by studies showing no increased cancer incidence in people likely to have received the vaccine. Now, several groups have discovered DNA from the virus, known as simian virus 40 (SV40), in certain relatively rare tumors. New epidemiological studies again show no elevated risk of cancer in people who may have received contaminated vaccine, but questions remain because evidence suggests that SV40 does infect humans and may have existed in the human population even before the polio vaccine.