Ovarian cancer is one of the hardest types of cancer to diagnose and treat. In many cases, when a woman finds out she has the disease, it's already progressed. Now, some doctors are using a new therapy to help patients once considered untreatable.
Doctors diagnosed 67-year-old Roberta Sand ovarian cancer four years ago. After several surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy, they told her she wasn't responding to treatment.
She remembers,"my doctor told me I had a good 2 years to live. And that had a profound effect on me as you can imagine."
So Roberta enrolled in an experiment that uses heated chemotherapy. It's called hyperthermic intraoperative chemotherapy or HIPEC.
Doctors remove the tumor, then immediately treat the area with the heated chemo. The drugs are warmed in a machine and delivered directly thru the patients abdomen.
"This sort of circulates on a circuit for 60 to 90 minutes while they are asleep," explains Dr. Sharyn Lewin from 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 a sweat.
Dr. Lewin says, "we think the heat makes the chemotherapy work better and makes the cancer cells more sensitive to the treatment.
The treatment has many of the same side effects as traditional chemotherapy.
Roberta says she's happy she had the treatment because her cancer went into remission for a few months.
Heated chemo is also used for colo-rectal and gastric cancers and usually reserved for advanced and late stage cancers.