Tuesday, January 19, 2016

There may be a link between immunosuppressants and cancer

The Toronto Star reports that some transplant recipients have a 3 times higher risk of dying from cancer, related to the general population:
The increased cancer mortality may be due to the immunosuppressant drugs that allow the patient not to reject the organ. The suppressed immune system may not be able to fight the cancer from developing and may allow the malignancy to be more aggressive, says [Nancy] Baxter, a senior scientist at ICES. Transplant recipients are often on the drugs for life. 

Once cancer develops, a transplant recipient may receive less aggressive treatment because of other existing health problems and the fear of possible transplant rejection, according to the study.
A follow up commentary to the study notes that while the role of wholesale cancer screening for the general population is being re-thought, this study argues that screening those that are solid transplant recipients might be worthwhile.

Whether these people are high enough risk to justify the cost of providing screening services is a question left for health economists to answer.

The original study can be found here.