TAMPA, Fla. (KFSN) -- A medical breakthrough could be on the way for a rare cancer with no effective treatment. Ocular melanoma strikes 2,000 Americans each year. Now a new treatment could possibly put a stop to the spread of this disease.
Forty-three-year-old Sabrina Frey is a mother of four boys. She has ocular melanoma, which has metastasized to her liver. She knows she may be short on time.
Frey told Ivanhoe, "I'm pounding the pavement looking for any option."
She has scoured the internet in search of anything that will prolong her life.
"I tried lots of different things. I had a liver resection. I tried immunotherapies," detailed Frey.
Now she is in this operating room trying percutaneous hepatic perfusion or PHP. Jonathan Zager, M.D., a surgical oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, has done this procedure on about 60 patients.
"I think it is a breakthrough treatment," said Dr. Zager.
Dr. Zager said during surgery the liver is blocked off from the rest of the body, then saturated with high doses of chemotherapy through a catheter for 30 minutes. A balloon prevents outflow from the liver.
"We filter the chemotherapy laden blood outside the body and then the clean blood returns to the patient with another catheter in their neck," explained Dr. Zager.
Frey has done PHP three times. She can do it up to six times about every eight weeks.
Dr. Zager told Ivanhoe, "We keep on going to second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth procedure as long as they've tolerated the previous procedure well."
It's working for Frey. Her tumors are shrinking.
"Some tumors are not actually even visible on my MRIs anymore," detailed Frey.
Dr. Zager said so far most patients are responding well to this treatment.
Frey said, "I just have to hold on long enough till they find a cure."
It looks like PHP is helping her do just that.
Dr. Zager said the earlier patients start this treatment the better. Candidates for this procedure must have good liver function and not many tumors. If ocular melanoma is localized to the eye, prognosis is good. But 50 percent of ocular melanoma cancers spread.