ORONO, Maine — Maine coach Shawn Walsh successfully underwent surgery yesterday afternoon at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md. The debulking procedure, which included a pneumonectomy (removal of his left lung and removal of cancerous tumors located under his breastplate) was performed by Dr. David Schrump of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Dr. Richard Childs of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and Dr. Schrump, Head of the Thoracic Oncollogy Section of the Surgery Branch of the NCI, are overseeing Walsh’s treatment while at NIH. Childs is the primary investigator of the stem-cell study, which is a collaboration of the NHLBI and NCI, Walsh is participating in.
According to Dr. Schrump, “Mr. Walsh underwent left pneumonectomy and node removal in preparation for a stem-cell transplant. The operation was uneventful and the patient was stable overnight. Mr. Walsh was out of bed this morning and doing well.”
Walsh asked that it be noted that Dr. Schrump trained at the University of Michigan. Michigan is one of the college hockey teams that advanced to the Frozen Four out of the West Regional in Grand Rapids, Mich., last weekend, and will play Boston College in a semifinal game, April 5, in Albany N.Y.
The debulking surgery Walsh underwent is essential in preparation for a stem-cell transplant, which Walsh will receive later, because the number of cancer cells present at the time of the transplant is directly related to the success rate of the procedure. Walsh, originally diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma in early July of last year, underwent these procedures to eradicate cancer cells that have spread to his left lung and his sternum.
Following three to four weeks of rest after the initial operation, Walsh will receive the stem-cell transplant, that will take up to two weeks to complete at NIH. Stem cells are immature cells that develop into blood cells. If the transplant is successful, new cells will grow, multiply and attack the cancer cells. The procedure involves transplanting stem cells from someone who is cancer-free and a very close genetic match into the cancer patient. Walsh’s brother Kevin will be the donor for the procedure.
Walsh, with his wife Lynne, said earlier this week, “I appreciate the support we have had in this battle, and I am looking forward to beating it [renal cell carcinoma].”
Walsh had surgery to remove a cancerous left kidney at the Boston Medical Center July 7, and underwent immunotherapy cycles at UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center in August and October.