Advanced procedure uses heated chemo to treat cancer

September 28, 2016 | by George I. Salti, M.D.

Typically, patients with advanced abdominal cancers have limited treatment options, as these tumors can be difficult to treat, especially when they have spread to the lining. If traditional cancer treatments aren’t an option, won’t work or stop working, what’s next?

Fortunately, over the last two decades, more treatment options have become available, including an innovative alternative called HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy). HIPEC combines surgery, heat and chemotherapy to treat advanced cancer within the abdominal cavity.

Before a patient receives HIPEC, surgeons remove visible tumors within the abdomen (via cytoreductive surgery). Once the tumors are removed, doctors deliver a chemotherapy solution that has been heated to intensify its effect directly to the abdomen, where it circulates for about two hours until it is drained. This helps to destroy any cancer cells remaining after surgery.

In addition to providing a more direct approach, HIPEC also:

  • Intensifies the effect of chemotherapy drugs
  • Allows for higher doses of chemotherapy drugs
  • Concentrates chemotherapy within the abdomen
  • Improves chemotherapy absorption and susceptibility of cancer cells

What does this mean for the patient? HIPEC can treat cancers in difficult-to-reach areas of the abdominal cavity, where other treatments can’t reach. This includes cancers in the abdominal cavity that have spread to the lining, such as appendix, colorectal, gastric, ovarian and peritoneal cancers.

Since the chemotherapy is concentrated in one area, there is less exposure of the toxic drugs to the rest of the body, which helps to reduce side effects and dramatically improve the patient’s quality of life. 

Not all patients meet the criteria for undergoing HIPEC. For patients to be eligible for HIPEC, the disease needs to be confined to the abdominal cavity, with tumors that are able to be surgically removed. The patient must also be in good health to withstand the surgery.

Only a few hospitals in Chicagoland offer HIPEC. My HIPEC team at Edward-Elmhurst Health includes a medical oncologist, surgical oncologist, radiologist and pathologist. We all work together to determine an appropriate HIPEC treatment plan for each patient.

Learn more about HIPEC at Edward-Elmhurst Health and what the team can offer.

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