For many, a diagnosis of widespread abdominal cancer triggers a strong desire to fight the disease using any means possible, including a willingness to travel great distances to receive the most advanced treatment.
Thanks to Ryan Holbrook, MD, board-certified surgical oncologist with Cancer Care Northwest, and the surgical cancer team at MultiCare Deaconess Hospital, patients facing such a diagnosis don’t have to travel far for an advanced cancer treatment otherwise available primarily at major, academic medical centers. Dr. Holbrook is the only doctor in the Inland Northwest performing heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), a procedure used to treat advanced abdominal cancers.
This complicated but promising procedure isn’t available anywhere in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah or Alaska. Dr. Holbrook has been performing HIPEC at Deaconess Hospital since 1996 and has completed more than 200 cases.
For patients with abdominal cancers, HIPEC is an alternate or complementary treatment option to traditional chemotherapy. Following surgery to remove visible tumors in the abdomen, a heated, sterilized chemotherapy solution is then delivered directly to the abdomen. By administering the solution directly in the abdomen, the intent is to penetrate and destroy any cancer cells that remain after surgery. The heated solution is continuously circulated throughout the peritoneal cavity for up to 90 minutes.
Administering heated chemotherapy in the abdomen at the time of surgery allows for greater concentrations of the drug where it’s needed. In addition to the cancer killing properties of the chemotherapy drugs, the heat kills cancer cells, while not affecting normal cells, since cancer cells have been shown to react to heat more readily than healthy cells do.
The treatment can take up to 10 hours, since it includes both surgery and careful administration of the chemotherapy solution. The procedure improves drug absorption with reduced exposure to the rest of the body. As a result, the normal side effects of chemotherapy can often be avoided. The chemotherapy is kept in the abdomen near the cancer, which minimizes the rest of the body’s exposure to the treatment.