A team of surgeons from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have performed transplants on five patients using kidneys from which small cancerous masses had been removed.
The BBC reports that to date none of the patients receiving the organs, that had either small cancerous masses or other benign masses, have been affected by cancer.
Indeed The Medical News confirms that in four of the recipients of the donated kidneys there were no long-term problems with the organs they had received. The time periods that have elapsed since the transplants took place range from nine months to 41 months.
A patient who suffered from acute humoral rejection after their transplant was successfully treated.
Unfortunately the fifth patient died a year or so after their transplant operation in an unrelated accident.
Dr. Michael Phelan, a urologist and head of the surgical team in Baltimore, the results of the team's work have been published by the Journal of the British Association of Urological Surgeons, has explained why using the formerly cancerous kidneys had been necessary, saying:Transplanting a living donor kidney which has been affected by a renal mass is controversial and considered high risk. However, the ongoing shortage of organs from deceased donors, and the high risk of dying while waiting for a transplant, prompted five donors and recipients to push ahead with surgery after the small masses were found in the donor kidneys
Elaborating further Dr. Phelan said:The global increase in patients with end-stage renal disease highlights the importance of identifying novel means to increase the donor pool. Although donor transplants using organs from deceased people have risen 16 per cent and living donor transplants have risen by 68 per cent, there continues to be a significant shortage and many patients die each year while waiting for a transplant. The current study provides evidence to suggest that kidneys from donors with renal masses offer a minor, yet feasible, solution to the current organ shortage. These organs can be transplanted into recipients with limited life-expectancy on haemodialysis after careful removal of the renal mass. However, diligent follow-up of the donor and recipient is imperative in these cases
All of those receiving the kidneys described as "risky" by the BBC were made aware prior to their transplants that the organs they were going to receive had been affected by cancer and all suffered from more than just end-stage renal disease, some had heart problems for example.
Once the kidneys were removed from the donors they were placed on ice, had their tumors removed in the operating rooms of their recipients, and were reconstructed and transplanted after being taken to the pathology department for confirmation that their tumors were no longer present.
The patients who received the "risky" kidneys were aged between 47 and 61, whilst the donors, three of whom were genetically related to the recipients of their kidneys, were aged between 38 and 72.