There are already two people in the world who have been cured of lung cancer with a double transplant. Tannaz and Albert were just a few days old when they underwent the operation, and today they lead normal lives.
Tannaz Ameli, 64, is the second person to have a successful double lung transplant. The operation that saved her life took place when she was terminally ill with cancer. The Minneapolis, Minn., woman underwent the surgery in June 2022 after Albert Khoury, 54, was cancer-free after the same operation at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago in 2021.
Both had stage IV cancer. Cancer is considered to be in stage IV when additional tumors have already developed in the lungs, in addition to the main one, or the cancer is already spreading to other organs, explains “CNN”. According to Northwestern Medicine, a person with cancer at this advanced stage already has few treatment options.
Double lung transplantation is one of the treatments that has been successful in people with poor prognosis. It usually consists of removing both recipient lungs followed by replacement with donor lungs, one at a time and in a single operation. However, Ankit Bharat, the doctor who treated Khoury and Ameli, opts for a different approach that aims to reduce the risk of contaminating the bloodstream with cancer cells – the team opens the chest cavity and makes a complete bypass between the heart and lungs.
“Essentially what that means is we don’t let any blood go through the heart and lungs and we bypass all of that,” clarified Bharat quoted by “CNN”. “This allows us to stop the blood flow to the lungs, which will prevent any cancer cells from going from the lung into the bloodstream.”
For a person to be eligible to receive the transplant they must have tried all other available treatments and the cancer must be contained in the lungs. Bharat explained that the surgery is not risk-free and that, especially in cases where the cancer is especially advanced, there is always the possibility that the cancer will come back.
Fortunately for Albert and Tannaz, the cancer had not spread and, with just a few days to live, they underwent surgery, which lasts about seven hours, and are now cured.
Albert Khoury had been diagnosed with stage I cancer at the start of the pandemic and thought he was infected with the coronavirus. Due to the advances of Covid-19, he was unable to start treatments until July 2020 and the cancer was evolving at an alarming rate. The man was hospitalized and with just a few days to live he became the first person to undergo a double lung transplant that resulted in the cure of cancer.
Tannaz Ameli had been diagnosed with pneumonia that there was no way to go away, until in January 2022 she received the news that she had stage IV lung cancer. She underwent chemotherapy treatments that didn’t work and began to come to terms with the idea that she wouldn’t live much longer. Her husband suggested that they visit Northwestern Medicine to consider the transplant. She ended up doing it, without any complications, and today she has a new perspective on life.