Simian virus 40 (SV40) was an accidental contaminant of vaccines produced in monkey kidney tissue cultures in the 1950s and early 1960s, including a parenteral adenovirus vaccine given to several hundred thousand US military recruits. Detection of SV40 DNA in tumor tissues by some laboratories suggests that SV40 contributes to human cancers.
To determine if entry into US Army service during periods of administration of SV40-contaminated adenovirus vaccine was associated with an increased risk of cancer, the authors conducted a case control study of cancer occurring in male Army veterans who entered service in 1959-1961. Cases of brain tumors, mesothelioma, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma were identified through a Veterans Administration hospital discharge database, as were colon cancer and lung cancer controls. Exposure to adenovirus vaccine was assigned on the basis of known periods of adenovirus vaccine administration and dates of Army entry obtained for cancer cases and controls.
After conducting the study, the authors concluded that there was no association between exposure to SV40-contaminated adenovirus vaccine among Army service personnel and risk of brain tumors, mesothelioma, or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The odds ratios associated with exposure to SV40-contaminated adenovirus vaccine were 0.81 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.52, 1.24) for brain tumors, 1.41 (95% CI: 0.39, 5.15) for mesothelioma, and 0.97 (95% CI: 0.65, 1.44) for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Although these findings do not support a role for SV40 in the development of these cancers, with the recent development of new testing for SV40 infection, future epidemiologic studies will need to reexamine this.
The study was funded by a contract with the National Institutes of Health, Contract number N01-OD-4-2139, T.O. 105. This article appears in the American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 160, No. 4 August 2004.
You can read Case Control Study of Cancer among US Army Veterans Exposed to Simian Virus 40-contaminated Adenovirus Vaccine in the American Journal of Epidemiology.