Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Terminal cancer patient saved by rare double lung transplant

(Mohammed Haneefa Nizamudeen/iStock)

Story at a glance

  • Albert Khoury, a 54-year-old nonsmoker, was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer in early 2020, which didn’t respond to treatment and advanced to stage 4 by the end of the year.
  • Khoury underwent a rare double transplant during a seven-hour surgery on Sept. 25, 2021.
  • Six months after the surgery, Khoury’s new lungs are working well, with no indications of a recurrence.

A Chicago man who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer has fully recovered from the double lung transplant that “save[d] his life.”   

Albert Khoury, a 54-year-old nonsmoker, first believed he had COVID-19 when he got sick in early 2020, but doctors informed him he actually had stage 1 lung cancer. Despite undergoing treatments, his cancer continued to spread, becoming stage 4 by the end of the year.  

“Doctors at other health systems told me there was no chance for survival,” Khoury said in a press release. “But then my sister saw a news story about lung transplants being pioneered for COVID-19 patients at Northwestern Medicine and encouraged me to make an appointment to see if lung transplantation could be an option.”   

During the coronavirus pandemic, a number of COVID-19 patients endured so much lung damage from the disease that they needed double lung transplants, making headlines. Khoury’s sister hoped the rare transplant surgery would also save his life. 


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“Lung transplantation for lung cancer is extremely uncommon with few cases reported,” said Ankit Bharat, MD, chief of thoracic surgery at Northwestern Medicine “For patients with stage 4 cancer, lung transplantation is considered a complete ‘no-no,’ but because Albert’s cancer was confined only to his chest, we were confident we could clear all the cancer during surgery and save his life.” 

Khoury underwent the transplant during a seven-hour surgery on Sept. 25, 2021 after spending two weeks on the transplant waitlist. When cancer patients receive transplants, there’s always the worry that a recurrence of the cancer could occur, especially as patients need to take immunosuppressive drugs —which can weaken the immune system — following the transplants so they don’t reject the organ. But six months after the surgery, Khoury’s new lungs are working well, with no indications of a recurrence.  

With lung cancer responsible for 20 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States, the success of such a transplant is an encouraging stride toward saving lives.    

“My life went from zero to 100 because of Northwestern Medicine,” said Khoury. “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.” 


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