Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Cancer May Pass From Pregnant Mom to Baby

Researchers Say Cancer Cells May Cross Placenta to Fetus and Cause Disease
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 12, 2009 -- Researchers have found new evidence that it's possible for a mother with cancer to pass the disease on to her unborn child.

A case report shows that cancer cells in an infant genetically match those from her mother; the mother was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after a normal full-term delivery.

Researchers say rare cases of mothers' cancer cells in infants have been reported over the last 100 years, which has suggested the possibility that cancer cells may be passed from mother to infant. But until now it had not been confirmed genetically.

In the case report, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers used genetic tracking to prove that the cancer cells had been transmitted from mother to infant.

The mother was a 28-year-old woman who was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after giving birth; her 11-month-old daughter developed a similar type of cancer.

Genetic testing showed the infant's cancer cells shared a unique genetic match to her mother's. Special markers in the cancer cells of the infant confirmed they were of maternal origin.

Additional testing showed that the infant's cancer cells lacked a portion of genetic material that would have flagged them as intruder cells and targeted them for elimination by her immune system.

Researcher Takeshi Isoda of Tokyo Medical and Dental University and colleagues say this genetic trait likely enabled the mother's cancer cells to evade the infant's protective placental barrier.

Today on WebMD

Colorectal cancer cells
New! I AM Not Cancer Facebook Group
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Ovarian cancer illustration
Real Cancer Perspectives
Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
what is your cancer risk
colorectal cancer treatment advances
breast cancer overview slideshow
prostate cancer overview
lung cancer overview slideshow
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
Actor Michael Douglas