High prevalence of serum antibodies reacting with simian virus 40 capsid protein mimotopes in patients affected by malignant pleural mesothelioma

Human malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is considered a rare tumor, but recent estimations indicate that one-quarter million people will die of this neoplasm in Europe in the next three decades. The mineral asbestos is considered the main causative agent of this neoplasm. MPM is largely unresponsive to conventional chemotherapy/radiotherapy. In addition to asbestos exposure, genetic predisposition to asbestos carcinogenesis and to simian virus (SV)40 infection has also been suggested. SV40 is a DNA tumor virus found in some studies to be associated at high prevalence with MPM. SV40 sequences have also been detected, although at a lower prevalence than in MPM, in blood specimens from healthy donors. However, some studies have failed to reveal SV40 footprints in MPM and its association with this neoplasm. These conflicting results indicate the need for further investigations with new approaches. We report on the presence of antibodies in serum samples from patients affected by MPM that specifically react with two different SV40 mimotopes. The two SV40 peptides used in indirect ELISAs correspond to viral capsid proteins. ELISA with the two SV40 mimotopes gave overlapping results. Our data indicate that in serum samples from MPM-affected patients (n = 97), the prevalence of antibodies against SV40 viral capsid protein antigens is significantly higher (26%, P = 0.043) than in the control group (15%) represented by healthy subjects (n = 168) with the same median age (66 y) and sex. Our results suggest that SV40 is associated with a subset of MPM and circulates in humans.
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