Europe’s Pioneering Liver Transplant Surgeon, Sir Roy Calne, Dies At 93

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John Oyewale Contributor
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The surgeon who led Europe’s first liver transplant died Saturday at the age of 93 in eastern England, his family said.

Sir Roy Calne, professor emeritus at Cambridge University, died in Cambridge, his family said, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Widely regarded as one of the fathers of organ transplantation alongside Iowa-born physician Dr. Thomas Starzl, Calne became interested in the then-impossible field of organ transplantation in his twenties in part because of his father’s work as a mechanic, the AP noted.

Calne reportedly first performed organ transplants in dogs, demonstrating for the first time in 1960 that certain drugs could prevent organ transplant rejection. He successfully led a liver transplant operation at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, in 1968, though the patient passed away two months later from an infection, according to the outlet.

Calne developed his idea of immunosuppressive chemotherapy, becoming the first to develop and administer cyclosporine as an anti-graft rejection drug, according to the AP. This led to improved outcomes for transplant patients and widespread acceptance of immunosuppressive drugs in clinical practice, the outlet reported.

Calne performed the first triple transplant — involving a liver, lung and heart — in 1986 and led a sextuple transplant — involving a liver, kidney, stomach, duodenum, small intestine and pancreas — in 1994.

Calne’s work got him elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, Britain’s equivalent to the U.S. National Academy of Science, and knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986. (RELATED: Prominent European Statesman Dies At 98)

Calne’s liver transplant program was Europe‘s first and the world’s second, after Starzl’s in 1967, according to the University of Pittsburgh. Both surgeons reportedly exchanged ideas in the early 1960s. Both surgeons shared the Lasker-Debakey Clinical Medical Research Award in 2012, according to the Lasker Foundation.

Calne was also an artist, with sketches and paintings featured in exhibitions, the Lasker Foundation noted. He described himself as having a “somewhat rebellious nature,” saying, “I’ve always tended to dislike being told that something can’t be done.”

“Sir Roy leaves behind a truly amazing legacy and many of our staff will remember him with fondness for his vision and genuine kindness,” Mike More, Chair of Cambridge University Hospitals National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust, said.