A lung transplant is not usually considered a viable or even necessary form of treatment for mesothelioma. Malignant mesothelioma is not a primary cancer that develops in the lungs. The most common form of the disease, pleural mesothelioma, develops in the outer lining of the lungs, a membrane called the mesothelium. When mesothelioma is in its advanced stages, it may metastasize to the lungs. That is one of the reasons that surgical treatment of pleural mesothelioma may involve the removal of a lung: a procedure called an extrapleural pneumonectomy. However because mesothelioma is not a disease of the lungs, replacing a lung is not going to contribute to curing the cancer.
Mesothelioma Patients and Lung Transplants
Complete resection of malignant tissue in a mesothelioma case is often a challenge; when it is accomplished it can be a major surgical endeavor. One of the criteria for eligibility for a lung transplant is that the patient be free of cancer and relatively healthy other than the pulmonary problem. An additional factor that is taken into consideration is age. Most mesothelioma patients are well into their sixties. So a lung transplant for a pleural mesothelioma patient is not a likely consideration.
Lung Transplant for Asbestosis Patients
Lung transplants have been conducted in a few cases for asbestosis patients who have developed severe fibrosis, to the point where breathing is virtually impossible. For most asbestosis patients however the odds are long because of the age factor. Asbestosis has a shorter latency period than mesothelioma, but most of the people who develop severe cases are well past fifty when the disease becomes acute. Older patients are not good lung transplant candidates and are not likely to be placed high on the waiting list. The history for patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis who have had transplants has not been good when the disease has reached an advanced stage. The same is likely to be true for asbestosis patients, who rarely get an early diagnosis.
- The Role of Extrapleural Pneumonectomy in Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma, Journal of Thoracic Cardiovascular Surgery, Rusch et al, 1991, PubMed, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2072706
- Lung Transplantation, emedicine, Moffatt-Bruce et al., http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/429499-overview
- Fighting for Every Breath, Seattle PI, April 2000, http://www.seattlepi.com/uncivilaction/asb12.shtml
- Lung Transplantation for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, Annals of Thoracic Surgery, Mason et al, 2007, http://ats.ctsnetjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/84/4/1121