Tragic diagnoses for two boys after cancer-stricken mums give birth

Josh Dutton
·News Reporter
·3-min read

There has been a tragic diagnosis for two boys and their mums in what researchers say is a one in 500,000 chance of occurring.

The two boys, aged 6 and 23 months respectively, were born to separate mothers in Japan, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

The 23-month-old went to hospital after experiencing a cough for two weeks.

CT scans found masses growing on his lungs and doctors determined he had lung cancer.

Seeking more answers, doctors spoke with his mum, 35, who had been diagnosed with squamous-cell carcinoma of the cervix three months after the boy’s birth.

The lungs of a boy, 6, are seen alongside a tumour taken from the cervix of his mum. Source: New England Journal of Medicine
The six-year-old's lungs are seen alongside a tumour taken from his mum (right). Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Maternal transmission of cancer

This carcinoma is a type of cervical cancer and can be caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) which is something the mum said she had not been vaccinated against.

HPV is sexually transmitted and can lead to genital warts and cervical cancer, according to the Cancer Council.

The mum underwent a hysterectomy and chemotherapy while the boy had a lobectomy in which part of his lung was removed. He was also treated with medications and saw doctors up until he was about three years old.

He recovered from the disease but unfortunately his mum died.

“Next-generation sequencing testing of paired samples of tumour and normal tissue was independently performed in the analysis of DNA from the lung tumour in the child and from the cervical tumour in his mother,” researchers wrote.

“Histologic similarities between the tumour samples from the mother and child prompted us to compare the results of their next-generation sequencing tests.

“The comparison of the gene profiles in the samples of tumour and normal tissue confirmed that transmission of maternal tumour to the child had occurred.”

The other boy, 6, was hospitalised after complaining of chest pain on his left side and a CT scan found a 6cm lesion in his lung.

Cervical tumour in mum affects son

Doctors noted his mum has a cervical tumour during pregnancy but since it was stable she delivered the boy vaginally.

The tumour was later removed but she too later died and doctors did not suspect the boy had maternal transmission of the disease even when he showed at hospital.

Doctors did consider his tumour inoperable though. He was given medication and treatment was found to be working.

But three months later the disease recurred in his left lung and he had to undergo chemotherapy. The boy also had his entire left lung removed.

He was given a check-up 15 months later and found to be cancer free.

It was determined both tumours from mum and son had HPV.

“It is likely that maternal tumor cells were present in the amniotic fluid, secretions, or blood from the cervix, and were aspirated by the infants during vaginal delivery,” researchers wrote.

“These cases indicate that mother-to-infant transmission of uterine cervical cancer is possible during vaginal delivery; therefore, cesarean section should be recommended for mothers with uterine cervical cancer.”

Researchers added maternal transmission of cancer is “extremely rare and is estimated to occur in approximately one infant per every 500,000 mothers with cancer”.

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