On 2 May 1968, Professor of Surgery, Sir Roy Calne, performed the first successful liver transplant in Europe at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
The patient was a 46-year-old woman with hepatocellular carcinoma, a primary form of liver cancer; the donor was a child with viral meningitis.
When the details of the donor and recipient were discussed amongst other consultants in the surgical department, there was opposition to the transplant going ahead.
By chance Professor Francis Moore, Chief of Surgery at The Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Boston, US, happened to be in Cambridge. Francis Moore was a pioneer in transplantation and was a mentor to Roy Calne during his time as a young research fellow in pioneering transplant surgeon, Joseph Murray’s laboratory. Moore was absolutely convinced that the liver transplant should proceed, and in fact assisted Roy Calne with the surgery.
The recipient recovered from a long and technically demanding operation, but unfortunately died two months later due to bronchopneumonia, an infection of the lungs.
Of the initial series of patients, one survived for five and a half years, and for a time was the longest living liver transplant recipient.
The current longest surviving liver transplant recipient had his transplant in 1975 in an operation led by Professor Sir Roy Calne.