Chemo Bath for Cancer

February 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
This year, 1.5 million people will be diagnosed with cancer. Cancers of the abdomen like colon cancer are some of the hardest to treat. Now doctors are giving some patients a "chemo bath" to stop the disease.Jon Upson isn't center stage ... and that's just how he likes it. He doesn't play for recognition or fame.

"I don't do it for money," Upson told Ivanhoe. "I do it just for fact that I love it."

Severe pain in his stomach forced him off stage and into the OR. Doctors told him he had appendicitis.

"They went in to take it out, and it wasn't what they thought it was," Upson said.

Upson suffered from something called jelly belly. A tumor on his appendix burst, sending cancer cells throughout his abdomen.

"The tumor gets blown up like a big water balloon and it just bursts," Andrew Lowy, M.D., professor of surgery at Moores UCSD Cancer Center in San Diego, Calif., told Ivanhoe.

Dr. Lowy removed Upson's tumor and then gave him a chemo bath.

"We're actually simply pouring the drug right onto the tumor," Dr. Lowy explained.

Then, the incision is then closed.

"We push on the patients belly from the outside to help insure the fluid is circulating equally," Dr. Lowy said.

The chemo is left in the abdomen for 90 minutes, and then sucked out.

"Tumors that have spread into the abdominal cavity don't have a very good attachment to the bloodstream, and if they're not well attached to the blood stream, when you give drugs through the veins, the drug doesn't get to the tumor cell," Dr. Lowy added.

It's a higher dose of chemo than traditional IV chemotherapy, and patients experience fewer side effects like hair loss and nausea because the amount of chemo that gets into the blood stream is much less.

Latest tests show Upson's cancer cells are gone. He's making sure not to waste this second chance.

"It definitely hit me hard, because cancer doesn't play by any rules," Upson said.

The chemo bath can currently be used for cancers of the colon and appendix. For additional cancer-killing power, the chemo can be heated. Dr. Lowy says a chemo bath can't replace traditional IV chemotherapy for all patients, but for some, one treatment could be their only dose.

If You Would Like More Information, Please Contact: Jackie Carr Public Affairs University of California, San Diego jcarr@ucsd.edu


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