Cancer contracted from ‘black market’ kidneys

The China Post news staff

The limited number of available kidneys for transplant in Taiwan has caused many to cross the strait for surgery in mainland China. However, the new kidneys appear to have a devastating side effect: cancer. The Taichung Veterans General Hospital alone has seen up to six cases of patients developing cancer of the urinary tract, bladder and prostate years after the transplant.

Local doctors said the most probable cause of the metastasized cancer is a lack of screening by mainland Chinese hospitals on a transplanted kidney of dubious origins. Doctors in Taichung even came across one case where the cancerous tumor was found on the transplanted organ itself; to save the patient’s life, surgeons were forced to painstakingly remove the overseas-acquired kidney. Patients who receive organ transplants are naturally at a higher risk of developing cancer than the average person, explained prostate cancer specialist Ou Yen-chuan from the Taichung Veterans General Hospital.

This is largely because patients take anti-rejection drugs after surgery, resulting in weaker immune systems and increasing the likelihood of cancer cell development, said Ou. If the origin of the kidney is unknown and the hospital staff did not conduct a full screening of the organ and test for compatibility, then the risk of cancer is greatly heightened, Ou said, adding that it was highly possible the kidneys were damaged before the transplant. The Hope Society for Cancer Care Director Wang Cheng-hsu warned the public against undergoing transplant-surgery that potentially involves “black market organs.” Make sure you follow up with the organ’s origin and donor profile if you are determined to undergo the transplant, Wang said.