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Surgery Plus Heated Drugs Boosts Cancer Survival

The combo is life-extending for patients whose cancers have spread

WEDNESDAY, March 9, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Once cancer has spread from its organ of origin, treatment options remain limited at best.

That's why the success of a new combination therapy -- where doctors combine surgery with heated chemotherapy drugs inserted directly into the abdomen -- has many oncologists excited.

The treatment, called intraperitoneal hyperthermic chemotherapy (IPHC), can improve survival and quality of life for people with several kinds of cancer that usually have a poor prognosis, according to four new studies.

"Surgery combined with IPHC seems to be a life extending and enhancing treatment option for patients with some of the most difficult cancers," Dr. Edward Levine, professor and head of surgical oncology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.

This new approach is useful for tumors of the abdominal cavity that have spread from the appendix, small bowel, colon, rectum and stomach as well as mesothelioma of the abdominal cavity and advanced ovarian cancer, the studies found.

The studies, all from researchers at Wake Forest University, were presented this past week at the national meeting of the Society of Oncology Surgeons, in Atlanta.

"Patients with peritoneal cancer that has spread from the small bowel represent both a unique diagnostic and treatment challenge," Dr. Perry Shen, lead author of one of the studies and an assistant professor of surgical oncology, said in a prepared statement.

However, patients with this type of tough-to-treat cancer who had both surgery and IPHC experienced a mean survival time of 45.1 months, compared to just 3.1 months for patients receiving traditional treatment, which consists of systemic chemotherapy plus surgery.

"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," Perry said.

Another study found that advanced ovarian cancer is also responsive to this combination of surgery and IPHC.

Levine said the positive results from these studies support the need for further evaluation of surgery and IPHC as a treatment for other abdominal metastatic cancers.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about ovarian cancer.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, March 5, 2005
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