Updated 13 April 2017

Cancer history may affect survival after organ transplant

A study found that organ recipients with previous cancer were 1.5 times more likely to die prematurely from any cause than those with no previous cancer.


Organ transplant patients who previously had cancer may be at increased risk for new cancer and early death compared to organ recipients with no cancer history, new research suggests.

The findings indicate that transplant patients with a history of cancer may need closer monitoring to detect recurrent and new cancers early, the study's senior author, Dr Nancy Baxter, said in a news release from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

Baxter is chief of the hospital's General Surgery Department.

She and her colleagues reviewed 33 studies that included a total of nearly 400,000 patients in 12 countries. They found that organ recipients with previous cancer were 1.5 times more likely to die prematurely from any cause than those with no previous cancer.

Read: Organ transplant patients run greater risk of skin cancer

Moreover, those with previous cancer were nearly twice as likely to develop a new cancer and had three times higher risk of dying from cancer, the study found.

The increased risk of new cancer and death did not vary according to the type of organ transplanted, according to the paper published in the journal Transplantation.

Previous research has found that cancer survivors are at increased risk of cancer recurrence after an organ transplant. But, findings regarding the risk of new cancer and death were inconsistent, according to the authors of the new study.

Read: Bone marrow transplant recipients prone to suicide

The new paper did not examine whether the increased risk of new cancer and early death was related to characteristics of organ donors or factors such as the type of immunosuppressant drug taken, said lead author Dr Sergio Acuna. He is a physician and doctoral student in clinical epidemiology at St. Michael's.

Previous studies have found that transplant recipients with previous cancers are more likely to receive organs from so-called "expanded criteria donors" older donors who might have had a history of high blood pressure, stroke or dialysis.

These factors are associated with deaths from heart attack or stroke, and organ rejection, Acuna said.

The researchers excluded studies about patients who received a transplant to treat cancer, such as liver cancer patients who receive a new liver.

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