a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


The continuing debate about the cancer-causing properties of SV40


Discovering that SV40 causes tumors
Leonard Hayflick Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

There was a woman scientist who was working in what's called the Division of Biologics Standards, which at that time was the unit at the NIH, not at the FDA; they were not at the FDA at that time. This unit was at the NIH and its... its purpose was to approve or disapprove vaccines for sale in the United States. It was called the DBS, standing for the Division of Biologics Standards.

It was run by a man by the name of Roderick Murray, who was actually a South African by birth; a rather conservative figure. And in one of his labs this woman scientist, whose name hopefully will surface in minute or two, was in the process of testing vaccines submitted for approval. And in the course of her research – and, again, I won't go into the technical details – she inoculated some of the vaccine preparation sent for testing and approval into hamster cheek pouches. The hamster has cheek pouches in which it stores its food for later consumption or storage, so it packs its cheeks with these food particles. The cheek pouch is a particularly interesting organ because it's... it has very little in the way of immunity and, consequently, it can grow things that ordinarily would not grow in other tissues. And so, it's a very useful organ.

The lady's name is Bernice Eddy, E-D-D-Y. Bernice, who I was... who I knew well, at that time, inoculated polio preparations into the cheek pouch of hamsters and discovered that tumours were produced, which was quite alarming. Later developments – and these developments occurred rather quickly – showed that the virus... that there was a virus involved and that the virus was the same one discovered by Sweet and Hilleman at Merck called SV40. And SV40 has the alarming capability not only of producing tumours in the cheek pouches of hamsters, but worst of all, when introduced into cell cultures of human cells, frequently causes them to transform into cell lines or cancer cells. Obviously, very... obvious... probably the worst calamity you can think of.

Furthermore, by this time, in the early '60s, the Salk vaccine had been approved and widely used. Sabin's vaccine, I believe, was just also being used in many countries, including the US. And it was easy to learn that several million people worldwide had received those vaccines that contained, at no extra cost, SV40 virus, a huge worry.

Leonard Hayflick (b. 1928), the recipient of several research prizes and awards, including the 1991 Sandoz Prize for Gerontological Research, is known for his research in cell biology, virus vaccine development, and mycoplasmology. He also has studied the ageing process for more than thirty years. Hayflick is known for discovering that human cells divide for a limited number of times in vitro (refuting the contention by Alexis Carrel that normal body cells are immortal), which is known as the Hayflick limit, as well as developing the first normal human diploid cell strains for studies on human ageing and for research use throughout the world. He also made the first oral polio vaccine produced in a continuously propogated cell strain - work which contributed to significant virus vaccine development.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Division of Biological Standards, Bernice Eddy, Rodderick Murray

Duration: 3 minutes, 57 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2011

Date story went live: 08 August 2012