Donor-transmitted cancer in kidney transplant recipients: a systematic review

Albino Eccher, Ilaria Girolami, Jennifer Danielle Motter, Stefano Marletta, Giovanni Gambaro, Rostand Emmanuel Nguefuet Momo, Francesco Nacchia, Paola Donato, Luigino Boschiero, Ugo Boggi, Letizia Lombardini, Massimo Cardillo, Antonietta D’Errico, Desley Neil, Dorry Lidor Segev, Gianluigi Zaza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The transmission of cancer from a donor organ is a rare event but has important consequences. Aim of this systematic review was to summarize all the published evidence on cancer transmission in kidney recipients. We reviewed published case reports and series describing the outcome of recipients with donor-transmitted cancer until August 2019. A total of 128 papers were included, representing 234 recipients. The most common transmitted cancers were lymphoma (n = 48, 20.5%), renal cancer (42, 17.9%), melanoma (40, 17.1%), non-small cell lung cancer (n = 13, 5.6%), neuroendocrine cancers comprising small cell lung cancer (n = 11, 4.7%) and choriocarcinoma (n = 10, 4.3%). There was a relative lack of glioblastoma and gastrointestinal cancers with only 6 and 5 cases, respectively. Melanoma and lung cancer had the worst prognosis, with 5-years overall survival of 43% and 19%, respectively; while renal cell cancer and lymphomas had a favorable prognosis with 5-years overall survival of 93 and 63%, respectively. Metastasis of cancer outside the graft was the most important adverse prognostic factor. Overall reporting was good, but information on donors’ cause of death and investigations at procurement was often lacking. Epidemiology of transmitted cancer has evolved, thanks to screening with imaging and blood tests, as choriocarcinoma transmission have almost abolished, while melanoma and lymphoma are still difficult to detect and prevent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1321-1332
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Nephrology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Disease transmission
  • Donor-transmitted cancer
  • Kidney transplantation
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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