Organ Transplant Recipients Contracted Breast Cancer From Their Organ Donor and All But One of Them Died
Few would argue with the importance of organ donation—138 million people in the U.S. have signed up as organ donors, and with more than 114 million Americans on the organ transplant waiting list as of August, the need for donors is greater than ever.
While typical complications for a recipient of a donated organ include rejection, surgery complications and infection, a recent case in the U.K. brought to light yet another risk even doctors couldn’t foresee: Donations by a woman with undiagnosed breast cancer resulted in four of the recipients of her organs contracting a “histologically similar” type of breast cancer over a period of 16 months to six years. Three out of four of them eventually died.
When 10-year-old Zion Harvey of Baltimore, Maryland, used his new hands for the first time, he was making history. Harvey is the first child to ever successfully receive a double hand transplant, known as composite vascular allotransplantation. While the surgery has been used more frequently with success in adults, his case was the first time it had ever been attempted on a child. He was eight when he had the surgery, and now just two years later, at age ten, he can catch a football as well as the next child, dress himself, write, and perform other normal activities for a child his age.
The case study sharing the details of the transplant, performed by a huge surgical team at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, was published in the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.