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.
Patients awaiting organ transplants may be able to extend the critical time period in which they await a suitable organ, thanks to a new technique that saved the life of a patient in Toronto last year. In an experimental procedure at Toronto’s General Hospital, doctors were able to remove the failing lungs of a woman and keep her alive without lungs for six days, until suitable donor lungs became available.
In what is being called a “revolutionary” new procedure, patients needing a kidney transplant can now successfully receive kidneys from incompatible donors. In fact, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in early March revealed that patients who received a transplant from an incompatible living donor had a better long-term survival rate than those who received a good match from a compatible deceased donor.