One of my daily alerts brought up this very interesting article published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology last month (June 2015). I personally found it fascinating. Moreover, it gave me some hope that specialists are out there looking for novel treatments to help with the difficult fight against Neuroendocrine Cancer.
This is an article about something generally described as “Intra-operative Chemotherapy”, i.e. the administration of chemo during surgery. This isn’t any old article – this is written by someone who is very well-known in Neuroendocrine Cancer circles – Dr. Yi-Zarn Wang. Dr Wang has been working with neuroendocrine cancer patients at Ochsner-Kenner Medical Center in Louisiana since 2006.
The general idea behind this isn’t exactly new as there’s also a procedure known as HIPEC (Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy) or “chemo bath”. This is mostly used intra-operatively for people with advanced appendiceal cancers such as Pseudomyxoma Peritonei (PMP). It normally follows extreme surgery – you can read more about this in a blog I wrote at the beginning of the year entitled “The Mother of all Surgeries”.
However, this is both different and significant because it is targeted at midgut neuroendocrine tumour (NET) patients who are often diagnosed at an advanced stage with extensive mesenteric lymph node and liver metastasis. Despite extensive surgery which needs to be both aggressive and delicate, there can sometimes be small specks left behind which will not show up on any type scan, particularly in the mesentery area. It is possible these specks could eventually grow big enough to cause fresh metastasis or syndrome recurrence/worsening and then need further invasive treatment.
The treatment aims to eliminate potential tumour residuals in mesenteric lymph node dissection beds using a safe and local application of chemotherapy agent 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). The 5-FU is delivered via ‘intraoperative application’ of 5-FU saturated gelfoam strips secured into the mesenteric defect following the extensive lymphadenectomy. The term ‘Chinese dumpings’ is used to describe the 5-FU saturated gelfoam strips once they are in place in the treatment site. I understand from other research that they can also be used in liver surgery (anecdotal from a forum site).
The report concluded that those who were treated with the intra-operative 5-FU received less follow-up surgery than those who were not (the control group). However, it added that further studies were required to evaluate its effect on long-term survival.
So…. this form of intra-operative treatment is very interesting. Incidentally there is already a form of intra-operative treatment using radiotherapy (IORT) which is a similar concept but essentially still in its infancy. However, the first IORT machine of its kind in the UK was deployed in Jun 2016. I blogged about this here.
You can read the report in full here:
p.s. If you get time, the introduction section of this article is a very powerful explanation of the problems and challenges faced by surgeons when presented with extensive abdominal neuroendocrine disease.