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Maintenance immunosuppression required after organ transplantation creates a permissive environment in which cancer cells can proliferate because of lack of natural immunologic surveillance. With more than a decade of clinical experience, this report is the first to address the risk of de novo cancer after intestinal transplantation.


A total of 168 consecutive intestinal transplant recipients (86 children and 82 adults) were studied, of whom 52% were male and 91% were white. Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results data was used to count expected rates of de novo cancers in the general population matched for age, sex, and length of follow-up.


With a mean follow-up of 47±41 months, 7 (4.2%) patients developed nonlymphoid de novo cancer, with a cumulative risk of 3% at 5 years and 28% at 10 years. Of these malignancies, one was donor-driven adenocarcinoma. With 0.58 being the expected rate of malignancy for the general population, the risk among intestinal recipients was 8.7 times higher (P =0.01). Such morbidity was significantly higher (50 times) among younger patients (<25 years), with a slight male preponderance. Induction immunosuppression was associated with early onset of de novo cancer. Patient survival after diagnosis of de novo cancer was 72% at 1 year, 57% at 2 years, and 29% at 5 years.


With conventional immunosuppression, intestinal recipients are at a significantly higher risk of developing de novo cancer when compared with the general population. Thus, a novel tolerogenic immunosuppressive strategy has been recently implemented to reduce the lifelong need for immunosuppression.

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