More specifically, if a human subject was exposed to, say, a human cancerous cell line (via intravenous injection or through an open wound, for example), is it possible that they would develop any conditions associated with the cell line?

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    $\begingroup$ This post will probably interest you. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Mar 16, 2015 at 4:17

1 Answer 1


This is highly unlikely because the immune system would detect these cells and atack them as foreign. There is at least one case described in the literature in which a woman died of lung cancer after receiving a donor organ from a smoker. This is due to the fact that after transplantations people have to take drugs to suppress their immune system to avoid an immune reaction against the transplanted organ. This allows tumor cells to survive.

The same problem is true in research animals. For the transplantation of tumor cells you need mice with a severely deficient immune system (so called "SCID" (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency) mice) to allow tumor cells to grow. This is different when you work with viruses (like the human papilloma virus) which can cause cancer. Here you have to take appropriate safety measures.

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    $\begingroup$ This is largely correct, but there much more known cases, including one case of transmission from a patient to surgeon $\endgroup$
    – alephreish
    Apr 9, 2014 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the addition. The case of the Tasmanian devil is also interesting, but these animals are genetically so closely related that the immune system is not detecting the foreign cells as not own. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Apr 9, 2014 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ @har-wradim. Your reference includes specific examples of needlestick transmission in humans-would be useful if you expand your comment into an answer. $\endgroup$
    – PlaysDice
    Apr 9, 2014 at 21:13
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    $\begingroup$ No, I don't mean the contagious cancers of devils and dogs. I mean the section, which starts with "Direct transmissions of cancers are not entirely restricted to animals..." $\endgroup$
    – alephreish
    Apr 9, 2014 at 21:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Chris. (The needlestick with the cell line was also not immune compromised). I'm not sure these reports can say much about likelihood of growth after a puncture, other than the frequency of suitable puncture incidents is probably very low. Imho, if anything, these reports remind us that there's probably plenty of room for improvement in our understanding of the immune response. $\endgroup$
    – PlaysDice
    Apr 10, 2014 at 0:38

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