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Health Spotlight: First-ever life-saving double lung transplant

First-ever life-saving double lung transplant

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — 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 groundbreaking double lung transplant is giving patients without hope a chance at becoming completely cancer-free.

“I coughed a huge mucus, twice, and it was blood in there,” said Albert Khoury.

“There was no hope for my life,” said Tannaz Ameli.

Time was running out for Albert Khoury and Tannaz Ameli – both diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer.

“They gave me, like, three months,” said Ameli.

“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,” said Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery at Northwestern Medicine.

Traditionally, only one lung could be transplanted at a time. Now, surgeons at Northwestern Medicine have performed the first two 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, and the airways and the chest cavity are cleaned. Surgeons have to be extremely careful to not let a single cell spill into the patient’s blood stream or chest cavity.

“We are now able to carefully remove the cancer-ridden lungs without causing metastasis or escape of these cancer cells,” said Bharat.

The two donor lungs are then transplanted.

“After the surgery, my surgeon told me that I am cancer-free,” said Ameli.

Nearly two years after their transplants, both Tannaz and Albert are cancer-free.

From hopeless and heading to hospice, to having a whole new life.

“This message is for anybody who has cancer – just stay strong,” said Khoury.

Surgeons at Northwestern Medicine first performed double lung transplants on COVID-19 patients. Post-transplant survival at one year was above 95%. It’s important to note: double lung transplant is only for people who have lung cancer confined to the lungs. Surgeons are planning to track 75 patients in a new research registry called Dream.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.