What is Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy?
Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is unlike traditional chemotherapy, yet it has vastly improved the life expectancy for patients with peritoneal mesothelioma and other abdominal cancers. HIPEC is a multimodal treatment used in combination with surgery. Not only are survival rates enhanced with this form of chemotherapy, but harsh side effects are lessened.
When traditional chemotherapy is administered, doctors inject appropriate drugs into an IV or provide such drugs in pill form. When hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy is administered, doctors pump a mixture of chemotherapy drugs and heated saline solution directly into a mesothelioma patient’s abdomen. Standard chemotherapy drugs are administered directly into a patient’s bloodstream. This allows the powerful drugs to destroy any cancerous cells. However, this treatment also kills healthy cells, which results in side effects such as nausea and hair loss.
This groundbreaking surgical procedure was first introduced by leading mesothelioma oncologic surgeon Dr. Paul Sugarbaker. He established a connection between surgical removal of cancerous tumors and direct administration of a heated chemotherapy drug mixture straight into a patient’s abdomen. His early research results proved that heated chemotherapy does an excellent job of distributing treatment within body tissue while destroying malignant cells more efficiently than the standard method of chemotherapy drug administration.
Who are Eligible Patients for a HIPEC?
A mesothelioma patient who qualifies for the hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy procedure must first be in good overall health and considered healthy enough by their doctors to undergo this widespread procedure. If a patient has any other chronic illness in addition to mesothelioma, then doctors will consider that a risk and not perform the procedure since cytoreductive surgery is a requirement beforehand.
Only those mesothelioma patients who will benefit the most from this treatment approach are selected. The stage of a patient’s cancer and size of their tumor also will determine if the heated chemotherapy option will be successful. Having an effective treatment plan for each individual is a top priority for doctors and medical teams. HIPEC may not be the best option for many patients. Research studies have proven that mesothelioma patients with the best overall outcomes are those who have their cancerous tumors removed before undergoing the HIPEC treatment.
Patients who qualify for hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy may be treated with a selection of drugs that can destroy cancer cells and stop the growth and spread of tumors. Mesothelioma experts have spent years researching and comparing the effectiveness of many different chemotherapy drugs. Clinical studies suggest that patients treated with two drugs instead of one experience improved life expectancy, even though medical researchers are still working to find a cure.
However, the medical community has yet to reach an agreement on several fronts, including the best drug combination; optimum exposure time for mesothelioma patients; and temperature of chemotherapy. Medical researchers continue to pursue the best techniques available.