Heated Chemotherapy Joins the Fight Against Mesothelioma

A Grand Rapids, Michigan man’s life was saved earlier this year by a new treatment in the fight against mesothelioma.  He has been cancer free for almost two years. 

For over 42 years, Jesse Diaz was a truck driver, traveling some of the toughest roads in the country.  During one of his last cross country hauls he began to feel pain in his stomach on one side, then the other.  In June, 2007 Mr. Diaz was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma, one of the types of mesothelioma that affects the lining of the stomach and abdomen. 

Despite the grim prognosis of having only months to live, Mr. Diaz was made part of a “radical chemotherapy treatment” that ended up saving his life. The procedure is called “Hipec” (heated intraoperative intraperitoneal chemotherapy).  And it involves heating the chemotherapy drugs before being entered into the body.  The benefit of heating the chemicals is that when heated the drugs are better absorbed into the body and the affected tissue.  Regular chemotherapy is entered intravenously into the body and is sent through the entire body. 

By being heated, and directly applied to the cancer site the body better absorbs the drugs and gets a higher volume of dosage.  Before the drugs are administered, the patient undergoes surgery to remove as much of the tumor or cancerous material as possible. After the heated drugs are implemented directly into the peritoneum (the lining of the abdomen) at a temperature of 111-114 degrees Fahrenheit, the patient is then literally shaken by the physician, allowing the heated chemotherapy drugs to fully circulate around the abdomen.  After the shaking, the fluid is drained from the patient’s body. 

Dr. Matthew Chung a surgical oncologist from Spectrum Health Hospital, in Grand Rapids, Michigan calls the procedure “shake and bake.” Research data behind this new radical technique is shows that it is proving quite promising.  Patients involved in the tests are showing progress in survival rates past five years in 75% of subjects, which is an increase in normal mesothelioma projections of 25% living past five years after diagnosis. 

Unfortunately, at this time, the heated chemotherapy is only available for patients suffering from peritoneal mesothelioma.  The therapy has not yet been adapted for the types of mesothelioma that affect the heart or lungs.

“Heated chemotherapy used to treat mesothelioma” by Valerie Lego & Jessica Puchala