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Debate Continues About Heated Chemotherapy for Mesothelioma

September 1, 2011 – Heated chemotherapy, also known as hypothermic chemotherapy, is an aggressive form of cancer treatment used for mesothelioma as well as other types of cancer that are also highly resistant to treatment.  The treatment during surgery is intended to reach residual cancer cells not easily removed by the surgeon’s knife. It involves heating the chemotherapy drugs and “bathing” the chest cavity or abdominal cavity to allow for larger doses of the drugs to be used and to enhance the potency of the treatment.

Authorities continue to debate the benefits of heated chemotherapy for Mesothelioma patients. As a leading proponent of hypothermic chemotherapy, Dr. Paul Sugarbaker of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists claims that cancer cells cannot withstand as much heat as healthy cells.  However, critics of this alternative treatment method say that mesothelioma patients who have benefitted from heated chemotherapy were carefully chosen and were already more likely to do well, even without the treatment. Critics point out that the treatment has actually had higher rates of morbidity in the past.

A 2009 study by the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery looked at 92 mesothelioma patients and found that overall survival was slightly better among mesothelioma patients who received hypothermic chemotherapy using cisplatin as compared to traditional methods.  For half of those patients, however, the mesothelioma did return and 49 percent experienced complications from the surgery.

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