At the Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, Israel, part of the Rabin Medical Centre, for the first time a lung cancer patient has undergone surgery in which his entire left lung was separated, taken from his body, the cancerous tumor it contained removed and the now-healthy lung reinstalled successfully back in his body to re-join its counterpart, through which the patient had continued to breathe during the extended operation, which took many hours.
This patient, who is in his 40s, had suffered a cancerous tumor which eventually blocked the main airway in his left lung, leading to its collapse.
At first, doctors thought there would be no choice but to permanently resection the damaged part of his lungs, as is usually done in such cases, which would expose him to serious risks until the hospital could find him a donor lung for a transplant.
With this new form of surgery, however, there is no need to wait for an organ transplant and, if successful, it can also allow a patient to return to the normal routines of life without damaging chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
“Cleansing” human organs of tumors in this manner is at an early stage and the surgeons said it may change cancer treatment everywhere in some cases, obviating the need for lung transplants and rejection risk and waiting times associated therewith.
“If we were to have simply cut out the lung alone, awaiting a transplant, the patient’s condition would continue to be life-threatening,” Dr. Yuri Faischowitz, Director of the Cardiothoracic Surgery Unit at Beilinson told Dr. Itai Gal of Ynet News.
In order to save the patient’s life, his doctors offered this new possible option; to remove the damaged lung from his body, cut out the tumor and return it to his body. It should be noted that taking a lung out of the body and transplanting it completely back in is a procedure that has been performed only a few times in the world and is one of the most complex in the world of medicine.
After lengthy discussions, the complex operation took place last week. An extensive team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and technicians were prepared for the procedure, and participated in the surgery.
During the operation, the patient breathed through his good right lung which continued to function, while the surgeons cut off the diseased lung, cleansed it from the tumor, and re-inflated the remaining lung tissue to check that it was functioning. “While we were inflating it, we saw that the upper lobe of the lung remained healthy,” explains Faischowitz, “so we were able to transplant it back.”
The original lung was reconnected, the blood vessels and the bronchial tubes also reconnected as in a lung transplant, and the thorax was sewn back. After hospitalization in the cardiac intensive care unit, the patient began a rehabilitation procedure and his condition is now very well defined.
“Tumor cleansing”: a method that may change cancer treatment
Lung cancer is one of the deadliest cancers of all. In many cases, patients are required to wait years for a lung transplant, as their condition deteriorates in the mean time. This new surgery procedure may, for some, offer new hope for complete cure of the disease.
“The new method may change the way patients treat cancer in the world,” says Prof. Dan Arav, director of the Heart and Chest department in Beilinson, who performed the surgery alongside Dr. Faisschowitz, “Removing the diseased organ and removing the tumor, in some cases, is a development in scientific thinking. The idea has now been shown to be effective in lung cancer, and may later be applied to other organs and other forms of cancer.”