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Last Updated: Sunday, 6 March, 2005, 00:06 GMT
'Hot' treatment option for cancer
Image of chemotherapy
The chemotherapy solution is heated
Inserting heated chemotherapy drugs into the abdomen is a good way to treat cancer that has spread, say experts.

Combining this with surgery can improve survival and quality of life patients with cancer that have historically had a poor outlook, they say.

A Society of Surgical Oncology meeting heard about four successful trials of intraperitoneal hyperthermic chemotherapy (IPHC).

They included tumours that had spread from bowel, ovaries and the appendix.

Hot solution

IPHC is also useful for tumours that start in the abdominal lining itself, called mesotheliomas, according to the Wake Forest University cancer specialists.

Patients undergoing IPHC are connected to a series of tubes and a pumping device that circulates a heated fluid containing the chemotherapy drugs throughout the abdominal cavity for a couple of hours.

These particular reported results certainly look encouraging
Professor John Toy, medical director at Cancer Research UK

The high temperature of the fluid is thought to increase the drug's effect and both heat and direct contact with chemotherapy drugs kills the cancer cells.

One of the studies, conducted by Dr Perry Shen from Wale Forest University Baptists Medical Center, looked at patients with cancer that had spread to the abdominal lining, called the peritoneum, from the small bowel.

Those who received IPHC in addition to usual care, which included surgery, survived much longer than those who had only traditional treatment - an average of 45.1 months compared to 3.1 months, respectively.

Attempts to treat this type of cancer using conventional chemotherapy and surgery have not been successful, said Dr Shen.


"While further study is needed on the effects of surgery and IPHC with other treatments, the data from this study suggest that this combination seems to be an effective and attractive option in a very difficult situation," he said.

Another study looking at cancers that had spread from the appendix showed IPHC improved survival when the cancer was low grade (less aggressive, slower growing), but not high grade (very aggressive and fast growing).

Wake Forest University has treated over 400 patients with this approach.

The risks and side effects are similar to those with conventional surgery and chemotherapy, according to research.

Dr Edward Levine, head of surgical oncology at the university, said: "Surgery combined with IPHC seems to be a life extending and enhancing treatment option for patients with some of the most difficult cancers."

Professor John Toy, medical director at Cancer Research UK, said the approach had been under evaluation in clinics around the world in recent years, showing promise, although not without some associated toxic side effects.

"These particular reported results certainly look encouraging for managing patients with low grade, but not high grade, tumours, which have invaded and spread within the abdominal cavity.

"These unfortunate patients present a very difficult clinical problem. The technique reported here adds a novel approach to a range of efforts being made by others, like Cancer Research UK."

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