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Double lung transplant gives man another chance following terminal cancer diagnosis

A double lung transplant on a terminal lung cancer patient is rare. But, by doing it on one man, doctors may save many more.

CHICAGO — More than 2,500 people received new lungs last year. Cystic fibrosis, COPD, breathing disorders and heart disease are some of the main reasons. But did you know lung transplants for lung cancer patients are extremely rare? 

A double lung transplant on a terminal lung cancer patient is even rarer. But, by doing it on one man, doctors may save many more.

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

“We saw that his cancer cells did not spread outside the lung. It kept spreading inside the lung to the opposite part of the lung. So, he wasn't able to breathe,” Northwestern Medicine oncologist Dr. Young Chae, MD, explained.

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

Thoracic surgeon at Northwestern Medicine Dr. Ankit Bharat, MD, said, “You can imagine trillions and trillions of these cancer cells all over both his lungs. 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.”

Six months later after his transplant, there was no trace of cancer coming back.

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

This one man’s story, now giving hope to others who may have lost theirs.

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

Khoury was and is a non-smoker. He’s not alone. Up to 20% of the people diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked. Doctors at Northwestern tell us although Khoury was the first lung cancer patient to receive new lungs, he won’t be the last. They are starting a registry to keep track of similar patients treated at Northwestern.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Ann Sterling at ann.sterling@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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