Some medical researchers and family members of cancer patients are now calling for more research funding, in hopes of learning more about the possible link between the polio vaccine and cancer.
Following is the transcript of Savini's report, "Vaccine Virus."
Dave Savini: At age two and a half, Stacey Girardi and Tim Brennan battled the same brain cancer -- an ependymoma. Both had tumors removed. Years later, Tim is doing well.
(Addressing Tim) You feel good now?
Savini: But part of Stacey's tumor remains, and she suffers from side effects.
Stacey: Made me lose the back of my hair and my hearing.
Savini: Mark Moreno had the same kind of tumor removed when he was two and a half years old, too. His surgery left him permanently disabled, and he now wears a helmet to protect his head.
What connects these three people is a fear over what was found in Moreno's case, inside his tumor: a virus typically not found in humans but in monkeys -- Simian Virus 40 or SV-40.
It's a virus that's also been found in a contaminated vaccine: the polio vaccine. Scientists used monkeys to grow the polio vaccine in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They later learned the monkeys were infected with SV40, and an unknown number of people were given the vaccine that contained the virus.
(Addressing a physician) You believe SV40 causes cancer?
Dr. Michele Carbone (Loyola Medical Center): SV40 is a virus that is capable of causing cancer.
Savini: Mark Moreno's SV40 was found when his tumor was tested for it. That type of testing is uncommon, and neither Stacey nor Tim's tumors were tested. But their parents want to know if that's what caused their rare cancers, and they want the government to fund more studies.
Melony Girardi (Stacey's Mother): If they are indeed doing research on ependymomas and finding that there is SV40 in them, everyone diagnosed with ependymoma -- their tumor, their specimen of that tumor should be tested.
Eileen Brennan (son had cancer): I don't understand why they won't unless somewhere out there somebody is trying to cover something up.
Savini: There is now growing concern that the polio vaccine that was given to millions may also have exposed people to cancer. Dozens of medical research studies are now confirming the link between the monkey virus and some tumors.
There's new concern that the virus can spread, but researchers are not sure how. Meanwhile, lawsuits are being filed claiming that more recent polio vaccines have been infected with the same virus.
Stacey and Tim were too young to have received the original batch of contaminated vaccine.
The same is true for Moreno, who lives in New Jersey. So how did he get infected? Moreno's mother filed a lawsuit claiming that later versions of the polio vaccine also were contaminated. Their lawsuit claims that drug manufacturers did not get rid of the SV40 when the government ordered it (to be done) in 1961.
Loyola doctors Michele Carbone and John Lednicky, both of Loyola Medical Center, have been researching SV40 for years. They fear young people are testing positive for SV40 because, somehow, the virus is spreading.
One discovery that leads them to believe this is that, in 1997, Carbone tested an unused vial of the 40-year-old tainted polio vaccine. It was the only one known to exist, and it tested positive for SV40.
An identical strain of SV40 was found in tumors of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma patients, in Texas. All the patients were too young to have received the originally contaminated vaccines from teh 1950s and early 1960s.
Carbone: At least some of the virus came from the vaccine, yes, no question.
Lednicky: Some people would say that it was a smoking gun.
Savini: It's a smoking gun to researchers who are trying to find out if the virus is spreading, and how. Is it spread from a parents who were vaccinated to their children? Or is it spread from person to person?
Researchers are hoping for more funding to study this, along with SV40's link to cancer.
Melony Girardi: It needs to be stopped. It needs to be checked.
Savini: It's important to know that even if you have SV40 in your system, that does not mean you will get cancer -- just like so many of us spend time in the sun but never get skin cancer.
SV40 experts, including Dr. Carbone, say that the benefits of the polio vaccine far outweight any potential risks, and even he made sure he was vaccinated.
With regards to the lawsuits, at least four have been filed.
Drug manufacturers and some medical researchers say the polio vaccine has been free of the monkey virus for decades, and that includes the vaccine on the market today.
Today the polio vaccine is tested to ensure it is free of the virus.
But the link between the virus and tumors remains a medical mystery, and many researchers are urging that more funding be provided to study SV40.
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