Medical Moment: The lifesaving double lung transplant

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 7:26 PM EST
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(WNDU) - More than 2500 people received new lungs last year!

But did you know lung transplants for lung cancer are extremely rare? And a double lung transplant on a terminal lung cancer patient is even more rare.

But by doing it on one man, doctors may save many more.

“I had a couple weeks to live, actually,” explained Albert Khoury. “Not that much time.”

54-year-old Albert Khoury was losing his battle to stage four lung cancer. Khoury ended up in the ICU with pneumonia and sepsis. He was fading fast, yet his cancer remained contained to his lungs.

“We saw that his cancer cells did not spread outside the lung. It was keep spreading inside the lung to the opposite part of the lung. So, he wasn’t able to breathe,” said Young Chae, MD, an oncologist at Northwestern Medicine.

That’s when the team at Northwestern decided to give Khoury an extremely rare double lung transplant.

“So, you can imagine trillions and trillions of these cancer cells all over both his lungs,” said Ankit Bharat, MD, a thoracic surgeon at Northwestern Medicine. “And we had to, very meticulously, take all of that out within that six-hour time constraint that we typically have for reimplantation of new lungs.”

“Just to see a new lung, clean lung, is surreal,” Dr. Chae said.

“This message is for everybody who has cancer,” Khoury said. “Just stay strong. Fight. Don’t stop. Good things will happen.”

A study by an international team led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute used a large epidemiological study of genome sequencing to evaluate changes in tumor tissue and normal tissue from 232 nonsmokers.

The study allowed researchers to see subtypes distinguished and different approaches to be taken. A better understanding of how tumors evolve and the way lung transplants can contribute to these subtypes are being examined in the new research.