‘Hot Chemo’ Procedure at Memorial Cancer Institute Providing Hope for Advanced Abdominal Cancer Patients

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Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), also known as “hot chemo,” reaches areas that traditional chemotherapy can’t, attacking cancer with a much stronger chemical cocktail than could be tolerated in the veins. It has been especially effective treating gastrointestinal tumors that spread from the colon, ovaries, appendix, and rectum.

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During surgery we remove all the visible disease from the abdomen. We then infuse a heated chemotherapy solution directly into the area for 90 minutes, washing the abdomen and killing any remaining cancer cells.

After several rounds of chemotherapy that ‘tore him down,’ 51-year-old Eddie Thornton decided to put his fate in God’s hands.

He had just learned the disease had spread from his colon to abdomen and the thought of more toxic treatment was too much to bear. At the minimum, the Pembroke Pines, Florida resident reasoned, he’d preserve whatever quality of life he might have left and get off the emotional and physical rollercoaster he’d been riding since the death of his father and cancer diagnosis. It’s a decision he made in the absence of hope.

Shortly thereafter, a recommendation of the Memorial Cancer Institute led to a meeting with Dr. Omar Llaguna, a surgical oncologist that is one of the few in South Florida performing a procedure that provides a viable option for patients like Thornton that have peritoneal surface malignancy or cancerous tumors that have spread to the lining of the abdominal cavity.

“During surgery we remove all the visible disease from the abdomen,” said Dr. Llaguna. “We then infuse a heated chemotherapy solution directly into the area for 90 minutes, washing the abdomen and killing any remaining cancer cells.”

Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), also known as “hot chemo,” reaches areas that traditional chemotherapy can’t, attacking cancer with a much stronger chemical cocktail than could be tolerated in the veins. It has been especially effective treating gastrointestinal tumors that spread from the colon, ovaries, appendix, and rectum.

For Eddie Thornton, being a HIPEC candidate meant there was reason for hope. “I walked out of there feeling like my old self, like there was something better than what I was going through. I believed there were better days coming.”

HIPEC can be a cure for some patients and extends the quality and quantity of life for others, with results depending on the aggressiveness of the individual disease process. The Memorial Cancer Institute has treated nearly 20 patients to date with the high-tech, high- touch solution, some of whom, like Thornton, believed they had exhausted all other options.

Thornton spent close to a week at Memorial Regional Hospital following surgery before being discharged to further convalesce at home. Within a week, he was regaining the strength cancer and its treatments had stolen and was walking unassisted for 20 minutes in his backyard. He’ll get bloodwork done moving forward to monitor his condition.

“I’m happy,” said Thornton, a City of Miami Beach employee. “I feel like the surgery was what I needed and I can go back to living the life I had.”

The Memorial Cancer Institute (MCI) is one of the largest cancer centers in Florida, treating more than 4,300 new patients a year. Part of the Memorial Healthcare System, MCI offers diagnosis, integrated treatment, support, clinical trials, and research customized for the patient and his or her family in an environment close to home.     

To learn more about cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC, visit online and call 954-844-9520.

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Yanet Obarrio Sanchez
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