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don09's picture
Posts: 108
Joined: Dec 2009

Has anyone here, ever heard of a lung cancer patient, receiving or given the option of a lung transplant? I know the procedure is performed for other lung diseases, other than cancer, and am curious as to why this is not done or even brought up by Oncologists. Any info, knowledge of this would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Glenna M's picture
Glenna M
Posts: 1576
Joined: May 2009

Sorry I don't have the answer for you but I'm wondering if it's because transplant recipents have to receive immune suppresant drugs for the rest of their lives??? It is an interesting question and would love to see if others know the answer.

Although, in my case, the doctor said they could remove my entire left lung and not get it all because of the location. If it is operable why remove and transplant another foreign lung if they only need to take one section??? Now you've got me really curious :)

Stay well,

PBJ Austin
Posts: 347
Joined: Mar 2009

Transplant organs are in such short supply, I think they prefer to give them to people who have no other health issues aside from the organ that is failing. As we all know cancer can spread and pop up again a short time after going into remission. I think Glenna's guess about immune suppressants is another good reason.

I know it seems unfair when you or a loved one is ill and you desperately want healing. But when organs are in short supply they will give them to people whom they perceive will have the best chances of survival after a transplant.

Glenna M's picture
Glenna M
Posts: 1576
Joined: May 2009

Your answer sounds like it may be the biggest reason cancer patients aren't offered a transplant. I know all transplant organs are in short supply and doctors have to decide who is the best candidate to receive each organ. They certainly would not choose a cancer patient over another, otherwise healthy, recipient. Doesn't always seem fair but it's a tough choice that doctors have to make. It sounds like a much more logical explanation than mine because I do know some people who had received transplants prior to their diagnosis.

Posts: 1
Joined: May 2011

Hi Don09...

Some of the answers you received were heading in the right direction... I believe you'll find the primary issue is the immune-suppression issue... And it is with any type of cancer, not just lung cancer... In general - most transplant candidates must be cancer-free for a number of years (usually 3 or 5 depending on the center...) However, there are some cancers that are accepted - certain liver cancers when they are localized and under a certain size are considered for liver transplant... In general - lung cancer is not - though some centers are considering certain situations... There is a lovely woman at Loyola in Chicago who had IPF and developed cancer in one of her lungs - she went through various treatments and I believe they felt it was in remission (or at least under tight control) and they accepted her and transplanted her... But that's the unusual case and she was denied by several other centers.

A large issue involves the immune suppression after transplant - especially immediately post transplant where it is at its highest... If there is any other incidence of cancer, if it had metasticized or was not all removed - immune suppression is like throwing gasoline on that fire.

It really has less to do with availability of organs or small supply - though it is definitely true that it is a very limited resource... But many of us who are transplanted are very sick and in pretty bad shape - post transplant survival is also considered when we become candidates for transplant. The bigger issue is that, historically, the recurrance of cancer in an immune suppressed patient, and the outcome of that cancer, is just prohibitive.

I'm a double lung transplant recipient - my underlying cause/need was due to cystic fibrosis... I hope you're doing OK... Did I answer a similar question from you an another cancer support forum? Love, Steve

don09's picture
Posts: 108
Joined: Dec 2009

Hi Steve, can't thank you enough for answering this question. It's something I have always been curious about. As I mentioned in the original posting, I have heard of this procedure performed for other lung diseases, such as the case with IPF, and a few others, with medical technology being what it is today, I had always wondered why one never heard of it performed for lung cancer. But now after reading your response I can understand why. I am happy for you in that you were able to receive such a gift, and hope you are doing well. Yes, you did answer this question through another cancer web site. This particular one is one my husband joined in 09, and we both share it, although I think I am on it more than he is, mainly due to my inquisitive mind, and questions like these, you never know what you will learn in the process, and I would have to say....... I have done just that. Thank you to all who responded to this post. Many blessings to you all.

Posts: 1
Joined: Feb 2013

BreathinSteven, I hope you are doing well. 

I had heard about the immunosuppression problems with cancer cells, and would appreciate any further information you may have on the topic, in particular research articles if you know of any.  My brother had a bad reaction to chemo drugs for non-lung cancer.  The reaction badly damaged his lungs, permanently, but he can't get a transplant because he hasn't been cancer-free for at least five years.  -- Eric

Posts: 58
Joined: Jan 2013

I understand that chemotherapy works by knocking down the immune system.  For chemo to work most effectively, you do not want to be taking "immune-boost" drugs.  AFTER chemo, you want your immune system boost with Melatonin.

I've also learned too that radiation works by oxidization and anit-oxidants counteract what the radiation is trying to do.  If you are having radiation -- cut your intake of anti-oxidants.

Source:  Surviving "Terminal" Cancer by Ben A. Williams, PhD.

Dapsterd's picture
Posts: 291
Joined: Jun 2010

Hello!...cancer patient are not offered lung transplants as the cancer is considered all over.....I believe.  So it is not value-added to the situation.



Posts: 1
Joined: Mar 2013

i have seen this mentioned as an option for people with advanced  BAC


Posts: 9
Joined: Aug 2012

Yes, a transplant it is a rare last resort for people with proven bronchioloalveolar carcinoma (BAC) but (a) it is hard to get this diagnosis today because nomenclature has changed, (b) there is still a 50/50 chance of the cancer returning, and (c) so very few lung transplant surgeons will consider doing the procedure, preferring to save the donated lung(s) for someone with a better chance of long-term survival.  Also, (d) it is very risky to begin with -- I know of one person who struggled with his wife to find a way to get that, had the transplant, but died a couple of days later.

The reason BAC (a subtype of adenocarcinoma) is sometimes considered is that it usually does not leave the lungs, so in theory if the lungs are removed intact, there's a chance the cancer will be gone.  Again, I've read people claim the odds of BAC returning after a transplant are 50/50.  My wild-guess is that this might be because BAC can sometimes change its behavior and spread outside like a regular adencarcinoma, or because the cancer cells may be wandering the body and eventually find a home in the new lungs (not to mention the immunosuppressive drugs).

Best hopes,

Craig in PA

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