Heated Chemo Could Kill Ovarian Cancer

By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)
By: CBS News (Posted by Melissa Brunner)

(CBS News) Doctors say a promising treatment that delivers heated chemotherapy to ovarian cancer patients may be a better way to treat the disease.

Ovarian cancer is one of the most difficult kinds of cancer to diagnose and treat. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 22,240 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cacner this year, and 14,230 women will die from the disease.

It is the ninth most common cancer among women, not including non-melanoma skin cancers. It also is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in women. About 1 in 72 women will get ovarian cancer, and their chance of passing away from the disease is 1 out of 100.

Part of the problem is that when doctors diagnose the cancer, it is often found at an advanced stage. Medical professionals are looking at ways to help people who currently have few options for treatment.

Sixty-seven-year-old Roberta Sand was diagnosed with ovarian cancer four years ago. She did not respond to multiple rounds of chemotherapy and surgery. She was in remission for five months, before the disease came back.

"My doctor told me I had a good two years to live, and that had a profound effect on me as you can imagine," she said to CBS News.

Sand enrolled in an experimental study at Columbia University Medical Center that uses hyperthermic intraoperative chemotherapy (HIPEC). Otherwise known as heated chemotherapy, doctors remove the cancerous tumor and then treat the area with chemotherapy that has been heated to about 108 degrees. The medication is delivered directly through the patient's abdomen for 60 to 90 minutes at a time.

Traditional chemotherapy is delivered normally at room temperature, so patients often break into a sweat when they are receiving the treatment.

"We think the heat makes the chemotherapy work better and makes the cancer cells more sensitive to the treatment," Dr. Sharyn Lewin, a gynecologic oncologist at New York - Presbyterian/Columbia Hospital, told CBS News.

Heated chemotherapy has been used to treat different cancers. CBS Evening News previously reported on UC San Diego's experimental program in 2011, where patients with appendix and late-stage colon cancer used the heated chemo protocol to treat his disease.

While the treatment has the same side effects as traditional chemotherapy, Sand is willing to give it a shot.

"I want to kill this cancer," she said. "This is an nasty cancer. I want to be aggressive, and I want to kill it."

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