We have recently noted an unexpected high incidence of lung cancer in our population of cardiac allograft recipients. We conducted a retrospective review of cardiac transplantation at our institution to investigate the incidence, clinical course, and outcome of patients who developed lung cancer following heart transplantation. Nine patients - each with a history of smoking at least 30 pack-years - developed lung cancer following cardiac transplantation, for an incidence of 1.56% of patients at risk. Eight of the patients were male ≤50 years of age, representing 3.3% of the male transplant recipients in this age group. The interval from transplantation to diagnosis clustered around 3-5 years after transplantation, but in two instances (22%), a neoplasm was discovered within 6 months of transplantation. Almost half of the cancers were discovered incidentally, despite routine radiographic surveillance. Seven of 9 (78%) patients had stage IV disease at presentation. Median survival after diagnosis was 3 months, and five of the seven patients who died survived less than 4 months after diagnosis. Two patients remain alive 2 and 12 months after diagnosis. We conclude that cardiac transplant recipients are at increased risk for development of lung cancer. Patients with a moderate to heavy smoking history might well be advised to undergo chest CT scanning in an aggressive search for occult lung cancer before cardiac transplantation is considered further. Finally, despite frequent radiologic examinations, these lung cancers are often diagnosed incidentally, are far advanced at the time of diagnosis, are not surgically resectable, and are poorly responsive to adjuvant therapy.
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