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Living Donor Offers New Hope For Colorectal Cancer Patients Needing A Liver Transplant

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Surgery is the first in the United States to show that a living-donor liver transplant is a feasible option for patients who have systemically controlled colorectal cancer and liver tumors, which cannot be removed by surgery.

Commenting on the study findings, Dr. Gonzalo Sapisochin, transplant surgeon at the Ajmera Transplant Centre and the Sprott Department of Surgery at University Health Network or UHN said, "This study proves that transplant is an effective treatment to improve quality of life and survival for patients with colorectal cancer that metastasized to the liver. As the first successful North American experience, it represents an important step towards moving this protocol from the research arena to standard of care."

The study, which was conducted at UHN, the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), and the Cleveland Clinic, gave priority to colorectal cancer also as it tends to spread to the liver. Nearly half of all patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer get liver metastases within a few years of diagnosis. In 70 percent of these cases, the liver tumors cannot be removed without removing the entire liver and this latest finding will be most useful for them.

In the case of these patients, a liver transplant from a deceased person cannot be considered as for most of them, despite their tumors, their liver function is fairly normal, so they are towards the last of the national organ transplant waiting list. Unfortunately, in the US, one in six patients dies each year while waiting for an organ transplant.

With help from the recent advances in cancer treatments, many patients can get their cancer under systemic control, which means their liver tumors are the only things preventing them from becoming cancer-free.

The living donor liver transplant was presented as a last resort and hence attracted many patients. All patients and donors underwent a tough screening process to make sure that they were okay candidates for the procedure and were also made to understand about the risks involved in the surgery.

Patients and donors were subjected to staggered surgeries to fully remove the sick livers and replace them with half of their donors' livers. Over time, both patients' and donors' livers regenerate and began their normal functioning.

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