Thursday, July 17, 2008

Organ Transplants Linked to Cancer

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Organ transplants can save lives, but new research shows they might also put recipients at risk of developing cancer.

New research at the Harvard Medical School revealed the immunosuppressive drug cyclosporine ramps up vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), causing new blood vessels to grow and feed tumors. Tumors that develop after a transplant can come from three sources: viruses from the organ donor, pre-existing cancer or recurrence of previous cancer.

The study revealed a potential treatment: anti-VEGF therapy, which could inhibit cancerous cell growth. For the 15 to 20 percent of patients who develop cancer in the decade that they received transplants, this could be great news. Researchers found the anti-VEGF therapy drastically reduced tumor growth in mice implanted with human kidney cancer cells.

VEGF expression is necessary in the immediate stage after transplantation, but after organ stabilization, lowering VEGF expression is important to “prevent tumor growth and keep cancer at bay,” Soumitro Pal, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School’s Transplantation Research Center at Children’s Hospital in Boston, was quoted as saying. He added, “We would need to figure out how to balance benefit and risk to keep cancer at bay.”

SOURCE: Cancer Research, 2008;68,5689-5698

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