Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Greek Church Leader's Transplant Stopped

Tuesday October 9, 2007 12:31 AM


Associated Press Writer

MIAMI (AP) - Doctors were forced Monday to halt liver transplant surgery on the leader of Greece's Orthodox Church because his cancer appears to have spread.

Archbishop Christodoulos, 68, was diagnosed with liver and colon cancer in June after undergoing intestinal surgery and spent 40 days in a hospital in Athens. He waited 50 days for a compatible liver to become available.

Preliminarily results indicated that the liver cancer had spread, said Andreas Tzakis, the director of the University of Miami's organ transplant institute, who oversaw the surgery.

It appeared unlikely the archbishop would undergo a liver transplant in the future, oncologist Bach Ardalan said.

On Monday, the archbishop was off life support, alert and sitting up on a chair, Tzakis said. The archbishop will likely be out of the intensive care unit in a week or two, he said.

``This is very encouraging to me,'' Tzakis said. ``So far, so good.''

Tzakis said he halted the transplant after finding tumors in the archbishop's abdominal cavity.

He said a transplant was not possible because the drugs transplant patients need to take to prevent organ rejection would have fueled the tumors' growth.

Tzakis said lab analyses will show whether the metastasis was from the archbishop's liver cancer or colon cancer. The tumors would be easier to treat if they came from the colon cancer, Tzakis said.

Liver cancer can spread to the bones, brain and lungs through blood, but a spread to the abdominal cavity is rare, he said. He said the archbishop's condition is unusual because the tumors had not burst - another way cancer can spread.

``This is a very unusual complication. Personally, I was shocked by it,'' Tzakis said at a news conference at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where the surgery took place. Lab results were expected by Tuesday or Wednesday.

Elected church leader in 1998, Christodoulos often stirred controversy with politically tinged statements.

He was instrumental in attempts to improve ties with the Catholic Church; in 2001, Christodoulos received in Athens Pope John Paul II - the first pope to visit Greece in nearly 1,300 years - ignoring loud protests from Orthodox zealots. He followed up last year with a historic visit to the Vatican, where he and Pope Benedict XVI signed a joint declaration calling for inter-religious dialogue and restating opposition to abortion and euthanasia.

In Greece, politicians accused the archbishop of meddling in their affairs, angered by his vocal criticism of everything from homosexuality and globalization to Turkey's efforts to join the European Union and a recent government effort to tone down nationalism in school history books.

Nearly all of Greece's 11 million citizens are baptized into the Church of Greece, which Christodoulos leads. Orthodox Christians, with adherents in the hundreds of millions, comprise the second-largest Christian group in the world, behind the Roman Catholic Church.



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