CHICAGO, Ill. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Lung cancer tops the list of cancer-related deaths in the United States, surpassing colon, breast and prostate cancer deaths combined. For patients diagnosed late, survival is slim. Now, a new groundbreaking double lung transplant is giving patients without hope of becoming completely cancer-free.
Time was running out for Albert Khoury and Tannaz Ameli – both diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer.
“I coughed a huge mucus, and it was pink – there was blood in there,” Albert remembers.
Tannaz tells Ivanhoe, “They gave me, like, three months.”
Out of options and out of time, until they heard about double lung transplants.
“In selected patients who have metastasis or cancer only located to the lung, and they have failed all the conventional treatments, we think we can provide a new treatment for those patients,” explains Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Northwestern Medicine, Ankit Bharat, MD.
Traditionally, only one lung could be transplanted at a time. Now, Northwestern Medicine surgeons have performed the first five double lung transplants for cancer patients. This new approach places the patient on a heart-lung bypass. Both cancer-filled lungs and lymph nodes are removed, the airways and the chest cavity are cleaned. Surgeons have to be extremely careful not to let a single cell spill into the patient’s blood stream or chest cavity.
Dr. Bharat adds, “We are now able to carefully remove the cancer-ridden lungs without causing metastasis or escape of these cancer cells.”
The two donor lungs are then transplanted, and nearly two years after their transplants, both Tannaz and Albert are cancer-free.
“This message is for anyone who has cancer – stay strong,” Albert emphasizes.
Surgeons at Northwestern Medicine first performed double lung transplants on COVID-19 patients. Post-transplant survival at one year was above 95 percent. It’s important to note that the double lung transplant is only for people who have lung cancer confined to the lungs. They are planning to track 75 patients in a new research registry called dream. You can find out more on clinicaltrials.gov.