Your Health: Double lung transplants for cancer patients

One man’s story is now giving hope to others who may have lost theirs.
One man’s story is now giving hope to others who may have lost theirs.
Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 1:08 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - More than 2,500 people received new lungs in 2021. Cystic fibrosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), breathing disorders and heart disease are some of the main reasons.

But did you know lung transplants for lung cancer are extremely rare?

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

Albert Khoury, 54, was told he had zero chance of survival.

“I had a couple of weeks to live, actually,” Khoury said. “Not that much time.” Khoury was losing his battle to stage four lung cancer and 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,” said Dr. Young Chae, an oncologist at Northwestern Medicine. “It kept spreading inside the lung to the opposite part of the lung, so he wasn’t able to breathe well.”

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 Dr. Ankit Bharat, a thoracic surgeon with Northwestern Medicine. “When 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.”

The difference between Khoury’s lungs before the surgery and six months later is dramatic.

“The new lung, there’s no traces of cancer coming back,” Dr. Bharat said looking at his scans.

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

One man’s story is now giving hope to others who may have lost theirs.

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

Khoury was and is a non-smoker. And he’s not alone - up to 20% of the people diagnosed with lung cancer have never smoked.

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