It is well known that organ transplants can transmit infectious diseases from donors to recipients, although they are very rare cases. But even harder to see is that transplants can transmit cancer, as a new case shows.
Three of the patients died from cancer, which underlines the "often fatal consequences of donor-derived breast cancer," as explained in the July issue of American Journal of Transplantation.
Donor with undetected cancer
The 53-year-old organ donor died of a stroke in 2007. Doctors transplanted their kidneys, lungs, liver and heart to donor recipients,
However, 16 months later, a woman who had received the lung transplant began to develop cancer in the lymph nodes of her chest. An analysis of the cancer cells revealed that they were actually breast cancer cells, and the DNA in the cancer cells showed that these cells came from the organ donor.Advertising
The other three patients who had received donations from this donor were notified. Two of them died of cancer shortly after. A 32-year-old man who received the right kidney was also diagnosed with breast cancer cells in his transplanted kidney in 2011. But doctors were able to remove the kidney, and he is still alive.
We are, however, faced with a very unique case: transplant recipients have a probability of 1 between 10,000 and 5 out of 10,000 of being victims of these events. That is because organ donors undergo rigorous screening tests, which include a family history of diseases, such as cancer, and multiple laboratory tests.
But, even, thus, absolutely everything cannot be analyzed and the risk is not zero. In addition, it is also easier for these cancer cells to grow in transplanted patients, because patients take medications to suppress their immune system and thus prevent their bodies from rejecting the new organ.
As if that were not enough, using computerized tomography to detect most cases would not be smart, according to the study authors, because there could be many false positives. The routine performance of such tests could lead to the detection of false positives and the rejection of healthy donors, which would lead to a "decrease in the already small group of donors". So, for the moment, the authors do not suggest that the current protocols be altered given the low rate of cancer transfer in transplants.