Organ donor's undetected breast cancer cells transmitted to 4 transplant recipients

A 53-year-old donated her kidneys, lungs, heart and liver to patients after dying from a stroke in 2007. What healthcare providers did not know, however, was that she had undetected cancer cells in her body at the time.

Now, breast cancer transmission has been reported in four transplant recipients from this same donor, according to research from the American Journal of Transplantation. Three of the recipients died as a result of the cancer. 

The first patient to fall ill was a 42-year-old woman who received both lungs and died after the cancer, which originated in her lungs, spread to her bones and liver. Another woman, who received a kidney, died a few months after she was diagnosed with liver cancer. Another patient, who received the liver, died from breast cancer.

"This extraordinary case points out the often fatal consequences of donor‐derived breast cancer and suggests that removal of the donor organ and restoration of immunity can induce complete remission," the authors wrote. 

The odds of catching cancer from a single organ transplant, according to a report from The Sun, are as little as one in 10,000.