A million and a half people will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Cancers of the abdomen, like colon cancer, are some of the hardest to treat.
Now doctors are giving some patients a "chemo bath" to stop the disease.
Musician Jon Upson isn't center stage, and that's just how he likes it. He doesn't play for recognition or fame.
"I don't do it for money, I do it just for fact that I love it," Jon says.
Severe pain in his stomach forced him off stage and into the O.R. Doctors told him he had appendicitis.
"And went in to take it out, and it wasn't what they thought it was," says Jon.
Jon suffered from something called "jelly belly." A tumor on his appendix burst, sending cancer cells throughout his abdomen.
"The tumor gets blown up like a big water balloon and it just bursts," says Dr. Andrew Lowy, surgical oncologist and professor of surgery at Moores UCSD Cancer Center in San Diego.
Dr. Lowy removed Jon's tumor and then gave him a chemo bath.
"We're actually simply pouring the drug right onto the tumor," says Dr. Lowy.
The incision is then closed.
"We push on the patients belly from the outside to help insure the fluid is circulating equally," says Dr. Lowy.
The chemo is left in the abdomen for 90 minutes, and then sucked out.
"Tumors that have spread into the abdominal cavity don't have a very good attachment to the bloodstream, and if they're not well attached to the blood stream, when you give drugs through the veins, the drug doesn't get to the tumor cell," says Dr. Lowy.
"It's a higher dose of chemo than traditional I.V. chemotherapy, and patients experience fewer side effects like hair loss and nausea because the amount of chemo that gets into the blood stream is much less."
Latest tests show Jon's cancer cells are gone. He's making sure not to waste this second chance.
"It definitely hit me hard because cancer doesn't play by any rules," says Jon.
The chemo bath can currently be used for cancers of the colon and appendix.
Doctor Lowy says a chemo bath can't replace traditional I.V. chemotherapy for all patients, but for some, one treatment could be their only dose.
TOPIC: CHEMO BATH
BACKGROUND: HIPEC, or Heated Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy, is a procedure used to treat advanced abdominal cancers. HIPEC is also called IPHC, chemo-bath or Heated Intraoperative Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy. HIPEC is performed during a surgery to remove an abdominal tumor. Once the tumor has been removed (cytoreduction) a chemotherapy solution is circulated throughout the patient's abdomen for up to 90 minutes. The solution is then removed and the incision is closed. Experts say there is now substantial clinical evidence that HIPEC is the preferred treatment for patients with hard-to-treat and advanced abdominal cancers.
BENEFITS: "We're doing this treatment because it is a more effective way of treating some types of cancers, because sometimes tumors that have spread into the abdominal cavity don't have a very good attachment to the blood stream," Andrew Lowy, M.D., professor of surgery at Moores UCSD Cancer Center in San Diego, Calif., told Ivanhoe. "When you give drugs through veins, the drug doesn't get to the tumor cell, so in this circumstance, we're actually simply pouring the drug right onto the tumor, and we do it during surgery. During surgery, that's a time when we have hopefully removed all of the visible tumor, leaving only floating small amounts of cells behind, which are more susceptible to the treatment." Because the chemo drug is retained in the abdominal cavity and not spread throughout the body, the
surgeons are able to give 80 to 400 times the dose, depending on the drug. Adding heat to the chemo treatment also has its advantages. Heat at 42 degrees Celsius kills cancer cells while not affecting normal cells. Heat also makes the killing effect of chemotherapy more powerful and it softens the tumor nodules so the penetration of the chemotherapy into the tumor is enhanced. Surgery can take anywhere from 8 to 14 hours depending on the severity of the disease. Patients
often experience fewer side effects like hair loss and nausea, because the amount of chemotherapy that gets into the blood stream is much less.
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University of California, San Diego