An ‘extraordinary’ case report has revealed that three people died after the same organ donor gave them all breast cancer.
According to a story published in MailOnline, the donor, a 53-year-old woman, died of a stroke in 2007 and donated her kidneys, lungs, liver and heart to patients needing transplants.
However, within six years of the woman's organs being transplanted, four of the five recipients had died as a result.
The heart patient died of sepsis but the other four developed breast cancer which spread into their healthy organs. Only one survived.
The cancer was not noticed by doctors before the woman's organs were donated and they acted as Trojan horses, secretly carrying the disease into the patients' bodies.
Experts are of the opinion that the odds of getting cancer from any single organ transplant could be as small as one in 10,000 and they believe this is the first time one patient has passed cancer on to four recipients, and it has never been seen to take so long for tumours to develop.
Research by scientists at University of Tübingen in Germany and the VU University Medical Center in the Amsterdam, the Netherlands, revealed the strange tragedy which unfolded during six years after the donor died.
The first person to be diagnosed in the peculiar case was a 42-year-old woman who received both the donor's lungs and less than a year-and-a-half after receiving her new lungs, the woman was admitted to hospital because they weren't working properly.
Doctors then discovered she had breast cancer which had started in her lungs and spread to her bones – it later spread to her liver and she died in August 2009.
Medics proved the cancer had originated in the organ donor by doing DNA testing.
When news got out about the lung transplant recipient dying, the 62-year-old woman who recieved the left kidney and the 32-year-old man who received the right kidney were both warned about the risk of cancer.
Tests were done on both but no sign of the disease was found right away.
But in 2011 the man was diagnosed with cancer in his kidney, and the woman was found to have cancer in her liver, but not until five years later.
The man had his transplanted kidney removed and took chemotherapy drugs for a year, and has been cancer free since 2012.
However, the woman's cancer, which was first noticed in her liver, then spread across her body and she died two months after being diagnosed. The fourth patient to get cancer from the transplanted organs was a 59-year-old woman who received the liver, to replace hers which was damaged by cirrhosis.
Her tumour was detected in 2011 but she refused to have the liver removed. When the cancer began to spread in 2014, she refused any further treatment and died.