Person-to-Person Cancer Transmission via Allogenic Blood Transfusion

Document Type : Systematic Review and Meta-analysis


1 Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

2 School of Medical Sciences, University of NSW, Sydney, Australia.

3 Australasian Research Institute, Sydney Adventist Hospital, Wahroonga, Sydney Australia.


Despite the recognized capability of Circulating Tumor Cells (CTCs) to seed tumors, allogenic blood transfusions are not presently screened for the presence of CTCs. Previous research has examined blood transfusions and the associated risk of cancer recurrence, but not cancer of unknown primary (CUP) occurrence. The Hypothesis explored in this paper proposes that there is potential for cancers to be transmitted from donor-to-patient via CTCs in either blood transfusions or organ transplants or both. This proposed haematogenic tumor transmission will be discussed in relation to two scenarios involving the introduction of donor-derived CTC’s from allogeneic blood transfusions into either known cancer surgery patients or into non-cancer patients. The source of CTCs arises either from the donor with a ‘clinically dormant cancer’ or a ‘pre-clinical cancer’ existing as yet undiagnosed, in the donor. Given the significant number of allogenic blood transfusions that occur worldwide on a yearly basis, allogenic blood transfusions have the potential to expose a substantial number of non-cancer recipients to the transmission of CTCs and associated tumor risk. This risk is greatly amplified in the low-income nations where the blood collection and processing protocols, including exclusion and screening criteria are less stringent than those in high-income countries.


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