Can Lung Transplant Save From Lung Cancer?

This is one of the very common question asked by many lung cancer patients. Is it really possible to transplant lung? Can lung transplant save from lung cancer? In the past, this cancer was considered as an absolute contraction for transplant which means this procedure should be avoided. However, the answer is not ‘no’ always. There are cases where the patient went through transplants and with time the number of transplants has also increased.

When and Why A Lung Transplant Might Be Ineffective for Lung Cancer?

Unfortunately for many lung cancer patients, lung transplant is not an option. Lung transplant is a local treatment like few others such as lung cancer surgery, radiation therapy for lung cancer, etc. which are known to treat the lung cancer cells in the lungs. Sadly, the majority of the patients had the cancer cells spread to lymph nodes and to distant regions of the body where only systemic treatments work which are known to treat cancer cells throughout the body; these include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, etc.

One more reason is the transplanted lung getting infected by the cancer cells. Even though the transplant works for some time but it was observed that cancer recurs in future.

Can Lung Transplant Save From Lung Cancer?

When Can Lung Transplant Be Useful?

Like we have several reasons for lung transplant failure, there are few reasons that considers this transplantation. There 3 scenarios where it can be considered.

  1. Patients of Bronchioloalveolar carcinoma of the lung (BAC) can opt for it as it is multifocal and advanced. BAC is now considered as a subtype of lung adenocarcinoma which is more common among non-smokers.
  2. Patients with early stage lung cancer along with end-stage lung cancer can also opt for it.
  3. Metastatic cancer to the lungs is something that gets from another body region and the condition is that the original or primary cancer should be under control. In this situation as well, lung transplant can be considered.

Research on Lung Transplant

Though this is an uncommon treatment, there is something United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) has to say.

In the time period of 1987 to 2010, there are less than 50 recorded cases of lung transplant used for lung cancer. Out of them 29 had advanced multifocal BAC.

Without this transplant and using just traditional treatments, the survival rate of these patients is 1 year and that for those who had a transplant is 5 years.

Who Can Consider Lung Transplant?

Patients with end-stage lung disease can opt it when no other option is available to them and when he/she has less than 1 year of survival rate. Few diseases can be considered for transplant which includes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) like emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis, damage of lung arteries because of congenital heart defect, alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis, bronchiectasis, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, sarcoidosis, pulmonary hypertension, etc.

Can Lung Transplant Raise The Risk of Lung Cancer?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Patients who have opted transplant have a higher risk of developing lung cancer again in the future. Thus, it is extremely important to choose the patients carefully for this treatment. There are many factors to check before deciding whether lung transplant will suit them or not.