Reported December 2005
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- There are some cancers against which chemotherapy is virtually useless, but a new technique is making a major difference for some patients.
Day-by-day cancer patient Fred Blum is regaining his strength. Just five months ago, he was battling intestinal cancer -- and the prognosis was bleak. "You just think of this tumor growing and enlarging and getting worse and spreading. And psychologically, it's very hard."
Standard chemo does little to fight advanced abdominal cancers like Blum's. But now, surgical oncologists are using a new twist to make chemo effective and extend survival for patients who often have no other options.
It's called intraperitoneal hyperthermic chemotherapy. It works by flushing a heated chemotherapy drug through tissue surrounding a tumor immediately after the tumor's removed. Perry Shen, M.D., an assistant professor of surgery at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., says "That hopefully provides kind of a mop-up or cleanup of any residual cancer cells left behind."
Heat boosts the drug's potency and weakens the tumor's ability to repair itself. The targeted delivery means a higher concentration of the chemo reaches the cancer. "This procedure can provide them a longer-term survival than regular chemotherapy alone," Dr. Shen says.
Before the treatment, Blum's prognosis was about six months. Now, he's planning on staying healthy and strong for a long time.
Some patients are undergoing treatment in an effort to prevent cancer from spreading to the abdomen from nearby organs like the appendix. There's potential the heated chemo could be applied to some non-intestinal, hard-to-treat cancers, like pancreatic cancer.
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