'Chemo bath' used to kill cancer

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by JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on January 13, 2010 at 6:45 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 13 at 6:48 PM

Cancers of the abdomen like colon cancer are among 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 how he likes it. Severe abdominal pain in his stomach forced him off stage and into the operating room. Doctors told him he had appendicitis.

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

Upson suffered from what's called jelly belly. A tumor on his appendix burst, sending cancer cells through his abdomen.

"The tumor gets blown up like a big water balloon and it just bursts," said Dr. Andrew Lowy, professor of surgery, Moores UCSD Cancer Center in San Diego.

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

"We're actually simply pouring the drug right onto the tumor,” said Lowy.

Then the incision is closed.

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

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," said Lowy.

It's a higher dose than traditional chemotherapy, but patients experience fewer side effects like hair loss and nausea because much less chemo reaches the bloodstream.

Latest tests show Upson's cancer cells are gone. He's grateful for this second chance.

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

Chemo bath can currently be used for cancers of the colon, appendix and ovaries.

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