First U.S. Patient Gets Stem Cell Trachea Transplant

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Trachea Transplant for Cancer Patients

The team transplanted a new windpipe with tissue grown from her own stem cells and did not need to administer anti-rejection drugs, according to the case report, published in the December 2008 Lancet.

While the procedure seemed to have worked in a few patients, many experts said the method is still in the earliest stages of development.

"This is a research project and not a proven therapy," said Dr. Larry Goldstein, director of the stem cell program at University of California San Diego. "There's an important step from innovative therapy to the research needed to bring the innovative therapy to a large number of people."

In fact, Goldstein said there's a lot more information needed to know exactly how the procedure worked.

Lambright said it is still early to tell if the procedure works for a larger number of patients.

"We are a long ways away from knowing whether or not any of this has real durable application," said Lambright.

But Lyles said that without the procedure his doctors told him he may not have been alive today.

"I think this is a viable solution to this type of cancer," said Lyles. "I'm happy to have been a part of it."

Macchiarini said this procedure could pave the way for other challenging transplants including the heart valve, chest wall, lungs and the esophagus.

"We need to be very cautious and don't make hope for patients with cancer, because this is experimental," said Macchiarini. "But so far the patients have had incredible results for an untreatable cancer."

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