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Double lung transplants weren’t typically recommended for lung cancer patients. But a new technique has been successful – The Mercury News

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By Avani Kalra, Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO — For decades, double lung transplants were not considered a viable option for treating lung cancer.

“It had been done, but it had always failed,” said Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery at Northwestern Medicine. “When you took out the lungs, the cancer cells would spread to the rest of the body, and it would come back a matter of months after the transplant.”

But after developing a new technique to replace damaged lungs during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Northwestern Medicine’s Canning Thoracic Institute has now performed more than 40 successful lung transplants on cancer patients in just two and a half years.

The operation has a 100% success rate for lung cancer patients today, and in January the hospital completed its first transplant on a patient with lungs affected by both COVID-19 and lung cancer.

Art Gillespie, a captain with the University of Chicago Police Department, contracted COVID-19 in March 2020 while visiting his uncle in a nursing home. While hospitalized with the virus, Gillespie discovered he had Stage 1 lung cancer.

Though he received treatment for COVID and chemotherapy, he developed pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that causes scarring in the lungs and makes it difficult to breathe. Ultimately, Gillespie had two-thirds of his right lung removed to treat the cancer, and, despite the operation, needed daily oxygen.

Later, Gillespie received a one-to-two-year life expectancy prognosis.



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