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New Treatment for Ovarian Cancer Uses Heated Chemotherapy

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- In many cases when a woman finds out she has ovarian cancer, it’s already progressed. Now, doctors are experimenting with a new therapy to help patients who are running out of options.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- In many cases when a woman finds out she has ovarian cancer, it’s already progressed. Now, doctors are experimenting with a new therapy to help patients who are running out of options.

Roberta Sand, 61, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer four years ago. After multiple surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy, doctors told her she was not responding to treatment.

“My doctor told me I had a good two years to live,” said Sand. “And that had a profound effect on me as you can imagine.”

So, Sand enrolled in an experiment at Columbia University Medical Center that uses heated chemotherapy. It’s called hyperthermic intraoperative chemotherapy or HIPEC.

For the treatment, doctors remove the tumor, then immediately treat the area with the heated chemo. The drugs are warmed in a machine and delivered directly through the patient’s abdomen.

“This sort of circulates on a circuit for sixty to ninety minutes while they are asleep,” says Dr. Sharyn Lewin of New York Presbyterian/Columbia Hospital.

Traditional chemotherapy is administered at about room temperature. With this method, doctors heat the treatment to about 108 degrees, enough to make some patients break out in sweat.

“We think the heat makes the chemotherapy work better and makes cancer cells more sensitive to the treatment,” says Dr. Lewin.

The treatment has many same side effects as traditional chemotherapy.

“I want to kill this cancer,” says Sand. “This is a nasty cancer. I want to be aggressive and I want to kill it.”

Sand’s cancer was in remission for five months and, even though it’s back, she says the treatment gave her a better quality of life.

Heated chemotherapy has success with other types of cancer. Doctors are testing the treatment on 30 ovarian cancer patients and hope to have results in the next two to three years.


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