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HIPEC: How This Warm Chemo Targets Cancer Cells

May 25, 2021

Like a warm bath, Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) has become a faster, more effective way to treat some cancers of the abdominal cavity by submerging the cancerous cells in liquid medication designed to kill them.

Unlike traditional chemotherapy that drips into the body through an intravenous tube and makes its way to the cancer, HIPEC is immediate and targeted, according to Dr. Bret Schipper, director of surgical oncology at the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute and specially trained in HIPEC.

“With HIPEC, we can deliver heated chemotherapy directly into the patient’s abdominal cavity, where it circulates and bathes the tissue and organs as it targets cancer cells,” Dr. Schipper said. “It’s a highly effective and efficient way to kill cancer cells and microscopic tumors that have metastasized or attached themselves to the surface of the abdominal wall or abdominal organs.”

HIPEC is designed for people with cancers of the appendix, colon and ovaries, as well as mesothelioma and pseudomyxoma.

Dr. Schipper will explain HIPEC more in a free Facebook Live presentation, “Regional Perfusion for Metastatic Cancer,” on Wednesday, June 2, at 6:30 p.m. He will address the role of HIPEC in treating metastatic cancer, followed by a question-and-answer session.

He will discuss such points as:

  • HIPEC is able to deliver higher concentrations of chemotherapy than the IV method without compromising patient safety.
  • HIPEC is delivered at a high temperature, which improves absorption by the tumors, destroying more cancer cells in the process.
  • HIPEC results in fewer side effects than standard IV treatment because the medication does not circulate throughout the body.
  • Research shows that ovarian cancer patients who had HIPEC lived about 12 months longer than those who did not.
  • Instead of multiple treatments of IV chemotherapy, HIPEC is delivered in a single, 90-minute session.
  • HIPEC is done in coordination with surgery to remove cancerous tumors.

“First, the surgeon removes any visible tumors in the patient’s abdominal cavity in the operating room. Then, the heated chemotherapy is delivered directly into the abdomen to destroy any remaining cancer cells or tumors that are too small to be seen,” he said. “After the treatment, the abdomen is drained and the surgeon closes the incision.”

Patients need to have Stage IV abdominal cancers to be considered for HIPEC treatment. The surgical oncology team reviews imaging, pathology and medical history to determine whether a patient is a good candidate for the procedure.

“These are often patients who are told no other treatment will work because their cancer is complex and advanced,” Dr. Schipper said. “HIPEC gives many a new option to consider.

To access the Facebook Live event, go to www.facebook.com/HipecTreatment/live at the appropriate time. You can submit questions once the segment begins.

For more information about HIPEC at The Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, which offers HIPEC at Hartford and St. Vincent’s hospitals, click here.

Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute