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Wednesday, 2 February, 2000, 17:17 GMT
Doctors hail transplant first

Surgery Pioneering surgery was carried out at King's College Hospital

The world's first combined liver and bone marrow transplant has been successfully performed by doctors and surgeons at London's King's College Hospital.

Doctors are confident the technique used could also help patients with many other diseases.

18-year-old Hugo Hennessy, from Belfast, underwent surgery in November 1998 after waiting several years for a suitable donor.

Another three months and his condition would have been inoperable.

I was ill, exhausted, scared, in pain and slowly dying. Today I can lead a virtually normal life again
Hugo Hennessy
But doctors have now confirmed that he has been cured of the condition CD40 Ligand Deficiency, which kills three quarters of sufferers by the age of 20.

The disease is an hereditary blood disorder that stops the human immune system fighting infection.

This leads to chronic infection, high blood pressure, vomiting blood, stomach swelling, liver disease and ultimately death.

Hugo's brother Conor died from the disease in 1983 and Hugo lived with his seriously worsening condition throughout his childhood and teenage years.

The only treatment for the condition is a bone marrow transplant (BMT) to wipe out the infected blood.

However, most patients will be experiencing liver disease as well.

In order to carry out BMT the patient must undergo a course of chemotherapy, which damages the liver further.

A healthy liver is crucial for the BMT to be successful.

Doctors at King's called in specialists from all over Europe for a special conference at the hospital to try to find a way to combine the two transplants.

Crucially, the doctors had to decide how quickly to transplant the bone marrow after the liver.

Too early and the liver might be rejected; too late and the disease could have set in again.

New "mini" chemotherapy

He has lived with immense pain and discomfort for many years and his bravery throughout was very important to his recovery
Dr Dino Hadzic
The teams at King's College Hospital used a new form of chemotherapy that does not harm the liver but is sufficiently powerful to permit BMT.

This form of "mini" chemotherapy has never been used in this way before to achieve these results.

It allowed doctors first to transplant the Hugo's diseased liver, and then apply chemotherapy which would allow the new bone marrow to take.

Hugo is now 19 and has made a good recovery. He can now lead a normal healthy life as a young man.

In a statement, he said: "The operations at King's have literally given me a new life.

"As my condition got worse it became increasingly difficult to lead a normal life.

"I was ill, exhausted, scared, in pain and slowly dying. Today I can lead a virtually normal life again."

Dr Dino Hadzic, consultant in children's liver disease at King's, said: "We are absolutely thrilled to see Hugo so well today.

"He has lived with immense pain and discomfort for many years and his bravery throughout was very important to his recovery."

The revolutionary procedure can now give hope to the 50 other UK patients with the condition.

The new concept of the "mini" chemotherapy also opens up many possibilities for treating patients with other conditions for whom a full course of chemotherapy would have been too dangerous.

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See also:
19 Feb 99 |  Health
Liver and kidney transplant is world first
28 Feb 99 |  Health
Transplant first in Japan
13 May 99 |  Health
Liver transplant for Jehovah's witness
23 Sep 99 |  Health
Hope for bone marrow transplant children

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