From stage 4 colorectal cancer diagnosis to remission

From stage 4 colorectal cancer diagnosis to remission

A new liver transplant treatment saved the life of a man with stage 4 colorectal cancer and is giving late-stage cancer patients a lifeline to survival.

Bill Sagan from Milwaukee, Wis., was suffering through excruciating pain and met with his primary care provider to find out what was wrong. Further tests showed tumors and he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in December 2020. He did chemotherapy for a year and a half, but the tumor was inoperable because it had grown to his liver.

That’s when oncologists and the transplant surgery team at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee determined Bill was a prime candidate for a liver transplant.

“I came across Bill’s case and I thought I can help this man,” says Dr. Ajay Sahajpal, transplant medical director at Aurora Health Care.

Historically, liver transplants were rarely done to treat colorectal cancer. However, a recent study showed that transplants to remove colorectal cancer that spreads to the liver can increase the 5-year survival rate from 30% to as high as 60%.

Facing stage 4 cancer and needing a miracle, Sagan got it.

“Once I found out that they wanted to take a chance, I was all aboard,” says Sagan.

Doctors removed the primary tumor and got Sagan back on chemo before the liver transplant. Sagan waited about six months for a donor and had the transplant in September 2022.

One week later, Sagan returned home and is cancer-free, enjoying a second chance at life with his family.

“Sometimes there’s that thought in your mind that you didn’t think that it was going to turn out the way it did,” Sagan says. “It’s starting to kick in that this can help other people. We’re setting a precedent.”

This specific transplant was the first ever conducted in Wisconsin and one of the first in the United States in hopes it may offer a life-saving option to additional late-stage colorectal cancer patients.

“This is revolutionary on my end. This is something completely different that I never would have thought would be possible that we can now offer our patients,” says Dr. Sahajpal.

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About the Author

Matt Queen
Matt Queen

Matt Queen, health enews contributor, is a communication coordinator at Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee. He is a former TV sports anchor and journalist with extensive public relations experience across the health care spectrum. Outside of work, Matt enjoys watching sports (of course), cooking, gardening, golfing and spending time with his wife and two young children.