Post-renal transplant malignancies: Opportunities for prevention and early screening

Cancer Treat Res Commun. 2021:26:100283. doi: 10.1016/j.ctarc.2020.100283. Epub 2020 Dec 11.


Goal of the review: While transplant recipients are aware of increased malignancy risk, there is little consensus on the preventative measures. The goal of this review is to bring available preventative measures to light and prompt more research to be done with ultimate goal of developing an individualized prevention plan for each patient based on risk factors and available screening tools.

Introduction: Transplant surgery offers patients with end-stage renal disease a longer life expectancy with help of immunosuppressive therapies. Nonetheless, life-long immunosuppression comes at a cost of post-renal transplant malignancies, which have become the leading cause of morbidity in this patient group.

Discussion: Post-renal transplant cancers can develop through either de novo, by donor-related transmission, or recurrence of recipient's pre-transplant cancer. While immunosuppressive therapy is considered to be the leading cause, weakened immunosurveillance of neoplastic cells and inadequate immune response against oncogenic viruses also plays an important role. The most common cancers seen in renal transplant patients are skin cancers and post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD). Risk factors for skin cancers have are ultraviolet light, human papilloma virus infection, and use of cyclosporin and azathioprine. Numerous viral infections have been associated with transplant-related malignancies post-transplant.

Conclusion: While lowering of immunosuppressive therapy remains the treatment of choice, it may lead to graft failure. Given some of the presented malignancies have modifiable risk factors and options for screening, clinical outcomes can be improved. Limiting skin exposure, dermatologic screening, and prophylactic retinoids can help lower the incidence rate of skin malignancy. Endoscopic screening for renal transplant patients can help identify gastric adenocarcinoma early and improve survival rates. Some of the post-transplant malignancies have been responsive to anti-viral treatment.

Keywords: Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (ptld); Renal transplant; Squamous cell carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Early Detection of Cancer / methods*
  • Graft Rejection / immunology
  • Graft Rejection / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / adverse effects*
  • Incidence
  • Kidney Transplantation / adverse effects*
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / diagnosis
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / epidemiology
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / etiology
  • Lymphoproliferative Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin / immunology
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Transplant Recipients / statistics & numerical data
  • Tumor Escape / drug effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects


  • Immunosuppressive Agents