Fresh Blood Is Not Harmful

Photo: Red blood cells

Fresh red blood cells can reduce
the risk of cancer recurrence;
© NCI Visuals Online

Blood transfusion during certain cancer surgeries is associated with increased cancer recurrence and reduced survival rates. Why this happens is not well understood. A study by Shamgar Ben-Eliyahu, Ph.D., and his research group from Tel Aviv University, however, offers unique and surprising insights that could open doors for important research in humans in the near future.

The researchers used rat models of leukemia and breast cancer to help determine whether blood transfusion is an independent risk factor for cancer recurrence/progression and to understand what aspects of the transfusion cause the alleged harmful effects.

“The results of our study clearly indicate that blood transfusion is an independent risk factor for cancer recurrence in the animal models we used,” said Ben-Eliyahu. “But our study also yielded two surprising findings. First, the storage time of the transfused blood was the critical determinant of harmful effects: fresh blood had no harmful effects. Second, and even more surprising, we found that red blood cells, not white blood cells, caused the effects we observed.”

The group also found a correlation between harmful effects of transfused blood and the amount of time it was stored, with those effects being most significant at nine days storage time or longer. There appeared to be no difference in harmful effects between transfused blood taken from the same animal or from a different animal, he said.

Ben-Eliyahu said that the results of his study suggest the need for studies in cancer patients, including retrospective and prospective studies, to determine if alterations in blood transfusion practices can indeed improve patient outcomes.

MEDICA.de; Source: American Society of Anesthesiologists