A rare occurrence, babies breathe cancer cells during vaginal birth

Two boys whose mothers had undetected cervical cancer at the time of delivery went on to develop lung cancer in early childhood.

A strange case of baby breathing cancer cells came up a few days ago. In a new case study published by researchers in Japan, doctors report what appears to be the first case of Vaginal transmission of cancer cells from mothers with cervical cancer to infants at the moment of their birth.

Two boys whose mothers had an undetected cervical cancer at delivery went on to develop lung cancer, in early childhood, most likely resulting from mother-to-infant transmission of uterine cervical tumor cells, according to Ayumu Arkawa MD of the national cancer centre in Tokyo.

“If the mother has cervical cancer, the infant can be exposed to tumor cells in fluids in the birth canal and could aspirate tumor cells into the lungs. To our knowledge, this is the first report of vaginal transmission of cancer to infants,” said Arakawa.

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This previously unknown phenomenon of inhaling cancer in your first breaths ostensibly appears to be for two otherwise unlinked cases of pediatric lung cancer diagnosed in a pair of young male patients, one 23 months old and the other was 6-year-old. The patients presented to the hospital with the symptoms of their illness, in both cases.

The 23 months old boy was experiencing coughing and the six-year-old was suffering from chest pain. Doctors after recognising the tumor went on with their treatment which turned out to be successful in both cases.

Both the patients received repeated bouts of chemotherapy, but were only cleared of disease after having operations to remove the cancerous tissue. In the case of 23 months old a cancerous lobe of lung tissue was taken out, while the six year old needed his entire lung removed.

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In the case of 23 months old, analysis of the tissue from his mother’s cervical tumour and her son’s lung tumour revealed gene profile similarities in the form of certain mutation and alleles and the lack of Y chromosome suggested that the boy’s cancer had directly come from his mother.

In the case of 6 year old boy tumours bore the same genetic signatures of his own mother’s cervical  cancer.

Circulating tumor cells | PNAS

The transmission of cancerous cells through this route appears to be very low, the researchers stated that prevention via HPV vaccination would further prevent the risk of transmitting infection. Further the researchers suggest a caesarean section should be a recommended form of birth for mothers with a history of uterine cervical cancer.

Such rare instances increase the need for research in medical science and specially in ‘cancer’. Once in a while these possibilities stuns us all and demands a great work in the field of scientific developments.

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