We hear a lot about treatments for lung cancer such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. But one treatment that's discussed far less often - lung transplantation - may improve survival for some people with a form of lung cancer known as BAC (bronchoalveolar carcinoma.)
While early stage BAC has an excellent survival rate relative to other forms of lung cancer, the median survival rate (the period of time after which 50% of people have died and 50% are still living) is only around 1 year for advanced BAC.
Though lung transplants are not a common treatment for BAC, researchers set out to compare the outcomes of people with BAC who are treated with lung transplantation versus more conventional therapy such as chemotherapy. They were also interested in knowing whether people with lung cancer fare as well as people with other medical conditions for which lung transplantation is used as a treatment.
In this study, survival rates for people undergoing lung transplants for BAC were similar to people who had a lung transplant for other, non-cancer related lung diseases. Survival was also better for people with BAC who received a lung transplant than those who went through chemotherapy (5-year survival rate of 57%.)
The results of this study are probably applicable to only a very small number of people living with lung cancer, but it does bring up a few important points. Lung transplants are not done everywhere. Considering a second opinion at a large cancer center may offer some people options that wouldn't be available at smaller institutions. It's also important to note that many treatments, such as lung transplants for BAC, are conducted as a part of a clinical trial. According to the National Cancer Institute, people with stage 3 and stage 4 lung cancer should consider taking part in a clinical trial when weighing treatment options for their cancer.
Photo: flickr.com, creative commons, author: Hey Paul Studios
Ahmad, U. et al. Outcomes for Lung Transplantation for Lung Cancer in the United Network for Organ Sharing Registry. Annals of Thoracic Surgery. 2012 Jul 24. (Epub ahead of print)