A mother has infected her unborn child with cancer in the first case of itskind ever proved by scientists
British researchers have found that a 28-year-old mother, who died of leukaemia, passed on her malignant cells to her daughter in the womb.
The extremely rare event suggests that rogue cancer cells can sometimes bypass nature’s defences and pass from adult to child. According to reports in The Telegraph, there have been 17 previous cases where a mother and infant appeared to share the same cancer, usually a leukaemia or melanoma.
However, this is the first time it has been linked ‘unquestionably’, said the team at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in Surrey.
Normally the baby’s immune system recognises and destroys any invasive cancer cells that come from the mother. As the mother and daughter had the same mutations the cancer must have been passed across the placenta.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Professor Mel Greave, an author of the study, said such cases remained ‘exceedingly rare’.
Dr Tony Ford, senior staff scientist at The Institute of Cancer Research, said: ‘This family has been desperately unlucky.’
He added that the baby had survived and was recovering at the moment.