Heated chemotherapy used to treat mesothelioma

4:23 PM, Mar 17, 2010   |    comments
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Spectrum Health Hospital, Grand Rapids.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - Learning you have stage four cancer and only six months to live is enough to make you think the odds are against you, but a Zeeland man survived because of a radical chemotherapy treatment.

It's called Hipec and it's being done right here in Grand Rapids at Spectrum Health Hospital. The treatment is becoming so cutting edge, it was recently featured on an episode of 'Grey's Anatomy.'

For 42 years, Jesse Diaz has been a truck driver. He has traveled some of the toughest roads - including one that lead to his cancer diagnosis. "It was pretty painful. I had pain on one side of my stomach and then it stopped and it started on the other side."

In June of 2007, Jesse was diagnosed with mesothelioma of the stomach lining. The diagnosis was pretty grim because mesothelioma can grow for years before you know you have it and by then it's often too late.

Jesse was referred to Spectrum Health surgical oncologist Dr. Mathew Chung. "Historically we just did surgery, if we could do it," explained Dr. Chung. "It's a very morbid procedure with not a good outcome."

But Dr. Chung had begun using a new treatment called Hipec. "We call it the 'shake and bake procedure' because we would remove everything, put some heated chemotherapy in the abdomen and literally shake the patients, so the chemotherapy would circulate in the abdomen."

The chemotherapy is heated and circulated through a modified heart lung machine and then flooded into the abdominal cavity of the patient for an hour while Dr. Chung literally shakes the patient. "You're always a little skeptical when you are trying new methods."

But Dr. Chung says data behind the technique is beginning to show promise. "These patients have a 5-year survival rate of less than 25%," said Dr. Chung. "With this technique, up to 75% survive after 5 years."

And Jesse is one of those survivors. He's been cancer free for two years and about to hit the road again, this time towards retirement. "Now I can spend more time with my grandkids, visiting my other grandkids in Missouri, and life goes on."

Thanks to a revolutionary new cancer treatment.

By Valerie Lego

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