- Contaminated Early
Polio Vaccinations Linked
To Cancer Epidemic
By Robert Matthews &
Adrian Humphreys The Sunday
Telegraph and National Post Ontario,
- By Robert Matthews & Adrian
Humphreys The Sunday Telegraph and National Post Ontario, Canada
- Note - The first person to go public
with the SV-40 cancer link was Dr. Robert Strecker who did so over 10
years ago in his landmark expose of HIV and the AIDS epidemic. No
article about SV-40 should appear without his name.
- The mass vaccination campaigns of the
1950s and '60s may be causing hundreds of deaths a year because of a
cancer-causing virus that contaminated the first polio vaccine,
according to scientists.
- Known as SV40, the virus came from
dead monkeys whose kidney cells were used to culture the first Salk
vaccines. Doctors estimate that the virus was injected into tens of
millions during the vaccination campaigns, including several million
in Canada, before being detected and screened out in 1963. Those born
between 1941 and 1961 are thought to be most at risk of having been
- Now a new study of the effects of
SV40 points to evidence that the monkey virus causes a number of human
cancers. It concludes there is "compelling" evidence linking
SV40 to mesothelioma, a once-rare type of lung cancer whose prevalence
is rapidly increasing.
- Dr. Janet Butel of the Baylor College
of Medicine, Texas, and the lead author of the study, said: "I
feel strongly that research is warranted to determine how common human
infections by SV40 may be, and what factors might predispose
individuals to SV40-related tumors."
- Her study, published in the Journal
of the National Cancer Institute, also suggests the monkey virus may
be passing from those given the contaminated vaccine to their
children, spreading the cancer risk still further.
- Blood samples analyzed by Dr. Butel
and her colleagues point to the steady spread of the cancer causing
virus in the human population, with 10% of those never exposed
directly to the contaminated vaccine testing positive for SV40.
- But several Canadian scientists are
skeptical and say those immunized during the period in question should
not panic. "I believe SV40 is present in the human population
today and is being spread among individuals by an unknown route,"
said Dr. Butel.
- Stephen Vas, a microbiologist at the
University of Toronto, said the link between the vaccine and cancer is
far from a certainty. "This study will be hotly argued. The name
SV40 means it is a 'simian virus' and it is a very controversial topic
whether the simian virus is a cancer-causing virus in humans."
- Said Grant McFadden, a professor of
microbiology and immunology at the University of Western Ontario:
"This idea has been tossed around for years but never shown. The
evidence for it has been lousy."
- And Gregory Dekaban, director of gene
therapy and molecular virology at John P. Robarts Research Institute
in London, Ont., said determining cause and effect of cancer is
extremely difficult. "Just because there is a certain virus
present doesn't mean it is the cause of the cancer." But
scientists in Britain said they are joining an international effort to
confirm the findings. According to Gordon McVie, the director general
of the Cancer Research Campaign in Britain, researchers have so far
uncovered evidence linking SV40 to a number of cancers, including
brain tumors and bone cancer. "I've a feeling that the virus
might be implicated in more, such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and
prostate cancer," he said.
- The study is also likely to prompt a
rethink by doctors of what happened 40 years ago during the early days
of polio vaccination. Until now, SV40 was regarded as harmless, with
no evidence of long-term health effects emerging in follow-up studies
of those vaccinated. Now it appears these studies may not have been
conducted over a long enough period. New highly sensitive laboratory
tests suggest the presence of SV40 in many different types of human
- The most startling results center on
mesothelioma, until recently linked primarily to exposure to asbestos.
Studies have found that around 70% of mesothelioma cases test positive
for the SV40 virus. Over the past 30 years, the number of mesothelioma
cases has risen 10-fold, to about 1,000 a year, and is predicted to
reach 4,000 early next century. Until now, the increase was blamed on
the asbestos industry.
- But the new findings are leading
scientists to suspect that SV40 may account for a substantial number
of mesotheliomas. Dr. Butel said: "The consistent association of
SV40 with that tumor is compelling."
- Dr. Bharat Jasani, a leading expert
on SV40 and mesotheliomas at the University of Wales College of
Medicine, Cardiff, said the new research could bring new hope to
hundreds of cancer patients, as many might be treated by a vaccine
that attacks SV40. "We could think about saving more than 2,000
lives a year from mesothelioma - and that is good news."
- A spokesman for Britain's Department
of Health said it was aware that SV40 had contaminated early polio
vaccines, but insisted there is no evidence the virus caused tumors.
- Health Canada officials could not be
- Prof. Vas said any concern over
cancer from old versions of the polio vaccine should be mitigated by
how many lives were saved. "If you calculated how many lives
would have been lost if the vaccine hadn't been used you would see the
benefits far, far out-weighed the possible harm. There are no debate
over the benefits, only the possibility it caused harm. But given the
fashion of the day, wouldn't put it beyond the people to sue the
government over this."