NIH continued to deny Stewart’s funding to study cancer, so she took a temporary position in gynecology at a hospital in Staten Island to gain more experience. Finally, after she took an appointment in the United States Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Corps and a position at NCI in Baltimore, her request to study cancer was accepted. She returned to the NIH in 1951 to work at NCI, becoming the head of the Human Virus Studies Section in the Laboratory of Viral Oncology.
In 1956, she isolated the SE (Stewart-Eddy) polyoma virus with Dr. Bernice Eddy of the Division of Biologics Standards (DBS) Laboratory of Virology and Rickettsiology. The SE polyoma virus induces parotid gland tumors and a variety of other primary neoplasms in mice and other animals, which had implications for future viral oncology research. Without Stewart and Eddy’s persistent research into the ability of viruses to cause cancer, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine would not exist today.
Dr. Sarah Stewart in the Laboratorylaboratory.
New Mexico State University Hobson-Huntsinger University Archives (UA02040405)