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Palmer Township resident with rare cancer of the appendix benefits from treatment

Bethlehem, PA (11/17/2008) – David Sutton of Palmer Township has always been active, coaching youth sports in the area since he was 17. A few aches and pains never sidelined him, until recently. Occasional lower abdominal pain started to become a nuisance. The pain would come briefly, be completely gone for weeks or even months at a time, and then return. At the urging of his family doctor and wife Kay, he had it evaluated.

“For me, September 4th will be a day that lives in infamy,” says David. “It's the day I had a CT scan and was taken immediately for an appendectomy.”

The scan showed a suspicious thickening around the appendix. “I didn't think anything of it at the time; I thought the operation would be routine,” he says. “The pathology results showed it was cancer.”

David was diagnosed with pseudomyxoma peritonei, an uncommon tumor that originated in his appendix. This tumor produced substantial mucous that spread into the abdominal cavity.

His family's search for a specialist to treat this rare cancer led him to surgical oncologist Darius Desai, MD of St. Luke's Cancer Care Associates. Dr. Desai is one of a select group of surgeons in the country to perform an innovative FDA-approved cancer procedure known as Hyperthermic Intraoperative Peritoneal Chemotherapy, or HIPEC.

Intraoperative Peritoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC)

The treatment is for patients whose cancer has spread along the inner lining of the abdomen, a condition known as peritoneal surface malignancy. It is not uncommon for cancer of the colon, stomach, ovaries, small intestines, appendix or other organs within the abdomen to spread to the lining of the abdominal cavity, according to Dr. Desai.

How HIPEC works

Immediately following surgery to remove any visible tumors, a chemotherapy solution is heated to 108 degrees Fahrenheit and poured into the abdomen. There, the solution is circulated throughout the abdominal cavity for 90 minutes to reach cancerous cells that may not be visible to the naked eye. “This direct application allows for a heavier dose of medication directly to the cancer cells,” says Dr. Desai. “Also, the heat causes the cancerous tissue to be even more sensitive to the treatment.”

David underwent the HIPEC treatment September 30 at St. Luke's Hospital-Bethlehem Campus. “Our goal is to kill microscopic cancerous cells to prevent the onset of new tumors and a recurrence of the cancer,” says Dr. Desai. “David did extremely well and has an excellent prognosis.”

Before HIPEC, surgical removal of these types of tumors and standard chemotherapy were used together to help manage disease. “Unfortunately, not all cancers are responsive to chemotherapy taken orally or intravenously,” says Dr. Desai. He has been performing the heated chemotherapy treatment following surgery for several years with promising results.

This combined surgery and chemotherapy treatment can take eight hours or more. “For patients to be considered, they must be able to physically endure a lengthy operation,” says Dr. Desai.

It used to be that people with peritoneal cancer had a short life expectancy. “Today, certain tumors that are amenable to complete surgical cytoreduction and HIPEC can have excellent survival rates,” says Dr. Desai. “Many patients do quite well. In David's case, he has not required any follow-up radiation or chemotherapy treatments.”

Gynecologic oncologist David F. Silver, MD, also of St. Luke's Cancer Care Associates performs the HIPEC procedure for qualified patients with advanced and recurrent ovarian cancer.

For more information, call St. Luke's Cancer Center at 1-866-stlukes (785-8537) toll-free.