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MONKEY VIRUS FOUND IN LYMPHOMA CELLS

          Two separate sets of researchers have found evidence of SV-40 (simian virus 40, a monkey virus) in the tumor cells of lymphoma patients. In one study (Vilchez et al.), the virus was found in 42% of lymphoma tumors. Presence of the virus in the tumors does not necessarily mean the virus caused the tumors, though it does raise suspicions.

          Previous studies of SV-40 in humans have focused mainly on cancers which are more rare than lymphoma, including mesothelioma (a type of lung cancer), ependymomas, choiroid plexus tumors, and certain bone tumors. SV-40 was introduced into the human population by the injectable polio vaccine from 1954-1963. The virus, undiscovered until 1960, was a contaminant of the vaccine. 10 to 30 million Americans, including many "Baby Boomers," were exposed to SV-40 in this manner.

          Viruses are associated with various cancers, including lymphoma. The Epstein-Barr virus has long been implicated in Burkitts lymphoma, for example. One possible scenario is that persons born with a particular genetic variant, who have been infected with SV-40 virus, might develop lymphoma following herbicide exposure, which would further damage the chromosomes in their lymphocytes.

          The Lymphoma Foundation of America calls on the National Cancer Institute to issue a RFP (Request For Proposals) for scientific research focused on viral associations with cancer, including the possible SV-40/lymphoma link.

Sources: Vilchez, R.A.; Madden, C.R.; Kozinetz, C.A.; Halvorson, S.J.; White, Z.S.; Jorgensen, J.L.; Finch, C.J.; and Butel, J.S. Association between simian virus 40 and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Lancet 359: 9309 (March 9, 2002).

Shivpurkar, N.; Harada, K.; Reddy, J.; Scheuermann, R.H.; McKenna, R.W.; Milchgrub, S.; Kroft, S.H.; Feng, Z.; and Gazdar, A.F. Presence of simian virus 40 DNA sequences in human lymphomas. Lancet 359: 9309 (March 9, 2002).

Malkin, D. Commentary: Simian virus 40 and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Lancet 359: 9309 (March 9, 2002).

[4/1/2002]


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