Progressive Alternative Treatment Shows Promise For Women With Recurrent Gynecologic Cancers And Some Gastrointestinal Cancers

Walnut Creek, Calif. (October 2, 2013) — The Gynecologic Oncology Program at John Muir Health is offering state-of-the-art technology and treatment options for women with recurring gynecologic cancers and some gastrointestinal cancers who would otherwise have limited options.

Patients may be a candidate for this procedure, known as HIPEC (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy), if their disease is limited to the abdominal cavity. It is performed as a two-part treatment in the operating room that begins with removal of as much of the cancerous tumor or tumors as possible to a minimal or microscopic level. Directly following the tumor removal, a tumor-specific chemotherapy agent is bathed and circulated throughout the abdominal cavity for 90 minutes at a temperature of 107 degrees Fahrenheit.

"HIPEC has the advantage of improved distribution of the chemotherapy agent throughout the abdominal cavity and exposure to all abdominal surfaces, which has been demonstrated in some studies to be beneficial to patients with advanced ovarian cancer when combined with cytoreductive surgery," said Babak Edraki, M.D., medical director of the Gynecologic Oncology Program. "Having this combination therapy available as a treatment is invaluable to patients with recurrent disease who may otherwise have limited options. It may be potentially effective in slowing the recurrence of disease and help to extend their life."

The major advantage of HIPEC is the regional dose intensity of the chemotherapy agent and its match to a patient's specific tumor, which results in improved effectiveness. Some of the other benefits include:

  • Heating has an antitumor effect and using chemotherapy increases its effectiveness
  • Heat increases the drug penetration into the tissue in the abdominal cavity
  • Heat increases the cytotoxicity of the chemotherapy to the cancer cells
  • Limited absorption of the chemotherapy into the blood stream, which minimizes side effects

For many patients, a recurrence of cancer can seem hopeless. Having been through surgery, chemotherapy and sometimes radiation, each with side effects, the return of cancer after a period of remission can be devastating" says Carolyn Berson, RN, MSN nurse navigator for the Gynecologic Oncology Program at John Muir Health. "This progressive treatment brings new hope."

The Gynecologic Oncology surgeons at John Muir Health began performing HIPEC in late 2010 and have successfully completed this procedure on 15 patients to date. "We are proud to be one of a few medical centers in Northern and Central California to offer HIPEC as an option to a select group of patients," said Edraki. John Muir Medical Center, Walnut Creek was recently recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the Top 50 hospitals in the country for gynecology services, which includes gynecologic cancer care.

For more information on John Muir Health's gynecologic cancer services, please visit

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