Chemo Bath Heats Up Debate About Radical Treatments for Rare Cancers


But Hipec is invasive and risky. The combination of radical surgery and toxic chemotherapy that makes it effective, proponents say, also makes it dangerous. But doctors who use Hipec are quick to point out the dangers of traditional intravenous chemotherapy, including a heightened infection risk and the possibility of nerve damage.

"Systemic chemotherapy is incredibly toxic," said Dr. Steve Libutti, director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care in New York City. "Ask anyone who's ever had it; it's no walk in the park."

What worries skeptics is the risk-benefit ratio. In the long run, only one in three Hipec patients stays cancer-free.

"Do we claim to cure every patient we treat? Absolutely not," Libutti said. "Do we claim to improve the possible outcome? Absolutely I think it's a great option."

More Hospitals Offering Hot Chemo Bath

Several hospitals nationwide now offer the procedure, including Manhattan's Mount Sinai Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital, at the University of Texas in Houston, offers Hipec for kids with abdominal tumors. Companies that manufacture Hipec equipment estimate that about 20,000 patients could be treated in the United States each year, Sugarbaker of Washington Hospital Center said, but fewer than 2,000 patients actually are.

In January 2010, Hipec was featured in an episode of ABC's medical drama TV series, "Grey's Anatomy."

"I totally watched that episode," Kane said. "We were like, 'That's it? That's all they said about it? It was too short, but whatever."

Kane, who just turned 46, said she would have Hipec again if her cancer came back.

"I know there are a lot of considerations -- each person is different, each situation is different," she said. "But for me, there was no alternative. And I couldn't just wait for something bad to happen."

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