New Lease on Life for Two Lung Cancer Patients After Pioneering Double-Lung Transplant

New Lease on Life for Two Lung Cancer Patients After Pioneering Double-Lung Transplant

WEDNESDAY, March 15, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Retired nurse Tannaz Ameli was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer last winter. When chemotherapy failed, her doctors recommended hospice care.

But Ameli, of Minneapolis, had other ideas. She and her husband sought out a pioneering medical team at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. Today, she is a survivor of a double-lung transplant -- just the second this team of specialists has successfully performed on stage 4 patients standing at hospice's door.

“I begged my doctors in Minnesota to consider a lung transplant, but they wouldn’t do it. Luckily, my husband refused to give up and pushed for a second opinion,” said Ameli. “When I came to Northwestern Medicine, the first thing Dr. [Ankit] Bharat told me was, ‘I think we can make you cancer-free,’ and he delivered on those words."

In response to the success of this innovative surgery, the organization is launching a first-of-its-kind clinical program called Double Lung Replacement and Multidisciplinary Care (DREAM).

“These are patients diagnosed with some forms of lung cancer that have spread within the lung, are out of treatment options and have limited time to live,” said Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery and director of Northwestern Medicine Canning Thoracic Institute.

“The purpose of DREAM is to provide the most comprehensive multidisciplinary care for these complex patients,” he said in a Northwestern news release.

'Zero to 100'

To celebrate this achievement and this opportunity for patients with poor prognosis, the two patients and their doctors shared their stories at a press conference Wednesday.

Albert Khoury, a cement finisher from Chicago, received his new lungs at age 54 on Sept. 25, 2021.

Khoury had begun experiencing a cough with mucus, sneezing, chills and back pain in early 2020, and suspected COVID-19. Instead, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.

After chemotherapy treatments failed, Khoury was put on a ventilator in a hospital intensive care unit. Hospice care was being considered for him.

Instead, Northwestern Medicine surgeons determined that Khoury was a good candidate for a double-lung transplant because his tumor was localized to the chest, completely encasing both lungs, and hadn’t spread to other parts of his body. Now, 18 months later, Khoury has no signs of cancer and has returned to work.

“My life went from zero to 100 because of Northwestern Medicine,” Khoury said. “You didn’t see this smile on my face for over a year, but now I can’t stop smiling. My medical team never gave up on me."

Like Khoury, Ameli’s cancer was confined to the lungs and hadn’t spread to other parts of the body.

The 64-year-old received her new lungs on July 13, 2022, only 10 days after being listed for transplant.

Neither Khoury nor Ameli needed any additional cancer therapy after their transplants.

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