American doctors announced on Thursday that they had succeeded in performing a double lung transplant on a patient with terminal lung cancer, raising the hopes of other patients. The patient in question, Albert Khoury, a 54-year-old non-smoker, spent seven hours on the operating table to receive his new lungs, at Northwestern Medicine Hospital in Chicago, on September 25, 2021.
Six months later, her new lungs are working well and no trace of cancer cells have been found in her body.
Doctors saved his life
“Lung transplants are extremely rare in lung cancer, with very few known examples,” said Ankit Bharat, chief thoracic surgeon at Northwestern Medicine, in a statement.
“For patients with stage 4 cancer, lung transplantation is considered absolutely out of the question, but since Albert’s cancer was confined to his chest, we were confident that we could rid him of all cancer cells in the operation and save his life. »
Surgeons are generally reluctant to perform this type of transplant, because the risk of relapse, in a patient who must take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the transplant, is very high if there are still cancer cells in the ‘organization. The first rare operations of this kind failed. Doctors, however, know more about how cancers spread.
He thought he had the Covid
Albert Khoury’s symptoms appeared in early 2020: back pain, sneezing, chills, cough… This Chicago construction worker first thought it was Covid-19, before starting to cough blood and call his doctor. Tests reveal stage 1 cancer.
Due to the wave of Covid-19, I could not start treatment immediately.
“But because of the wave of Covid-19, I could not start treatment immediately,” he said in a statement. In July 2020, his cancer had worsened, at stage 2. And the chemotherapy did not prevent it from progressing further, at stages 3 then 4.
He had been told that he would not survive it, when his sister told him about lung transplants at Northwestern Medicine Hospital, a pioneer in this field. In 2020, a team led by surgeon Ankit Bharat had already performed a double transplant on a young woman whose lungs had been ravaged by Covid-19.
A meticulous six-hour operation
After further attempts at treatment, Albert Khoury, whose condition was deteriorating, was deemed eligible for this transplant, as his cancer, although stage 4, had not spread to any other organs. The team that operated on him had to, in six hours, remove “trillions” of cancerous cells from his lungs, taking care not to let them come into contact with his chest or his bloodstream. “It was a thrilling night,” summed up Ankit Bharat.
I haven’t smiled for over a year, but now I can’t stop.
Albert Khoury can now lead a normal life, work or play sports without respiratory assistance.
“I haven’t smiled for over a year, but now I can’t stop,” he said. After its success, Ankit Bharat’s team set out to develop new protocols to determine who else might be eligible for such treatment. Lung cancer is by far the deadliest in the United States, with nearly one in four deaths related to the disease.