Innovation: Toronto and Transplantation

Living History
Written on: 
Monday, June 11, 2012

Building on a tradition of surgical innovation and new opportunities made possible with the availability of heparin, the University of Toronto played a major role in the advancement of transplantation research and surgical techniques.

In 1968, sparked by the first successful heart transplant operation in South Africa, University of Toronto’s Chair of Surgery, Dr. William R. Drucker,
established Toronto’s heart transplant program, turning to Dr. Wilfred Bigelow to organize it. However, challenges including the need for better
immunosuppressants, limited early progress.

In 1963, Dr. F. Griffith (Griff) Pearson, Head of the Department of Surgery’s Thoracic Division, began a series of lung transplantation experiments at the University of Toronto. With a surgical team that included Dr. Joel Cooper, an initial attempt was made in 1977, although it was unsuccessful.

By November 1983, after Dr. G. Alexander Patterson joined the Toronto transplant group, the word’s first successful single lung transplant was performed, followed by the first double lung transplant in 1986. In 1997, Toronto solidified its world leadership in lung transplantation with the arrival of Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, who became Director of the Toronto Lung Transplantation Program based at Toronto General Hospital, and pioneered the groundbreaking XVIVO technique.