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Patient receives innovative surgery that combines chest tumor removal, heated chemotherapy

CHICAGO – Thursday, July 23 – Teams from Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital have partnered to perform thoracic chemoperfusion on a man in his 60s from Chicago’s western suburbs. During the seven-hour procedure, surgeons removed a metastatic cancerous tumor from the patient’s chest and lung, and then circulated heated chemotherapy to kill any residual cancer cells. The procedure was one of the first in Illinois and was the first at Northwestern Medicine.

“This surgery provides a novel and effective treatment to patients whose cancers are difficult to treat with conventional intravenous chemotherapy,” said Dr. John Abad, director of surgical oncology at Central DuPage Hospital. “For highly selected patients with specific types of cancer, this treatment strategy provides excellent tumor control that translates to survival benefits and the possibility of a cure for many patients.”

Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery at Northwestern Medicine and a member of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, said the procedure is best for some recurrent types of cancer in the chest, including mesothelioma in the lungs and other cancers that have spread.

“During surgery we remove all the tumor we can visualize, however with some types of cancer we also assume there is microscopic cancer that can’t be seen by the naked eye,” Bharat said. “We use a special pump to heat the chemotherapy and help it penetrate the cancer cells. Our goal is to cure the disease or to give patients a better chance at long-term control of serious cancers.”

This procedure, called Hyperthermic Intrathoracic Chemotherapy (HITHOC), complements a similar procedure used for some abdominal cancers in a surgery called Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy, or HIPEC. HIPEC is already performed at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Together with HITHOC, the regional therapeutics oncology program at Northwestern Medicine makes it possible for physicians to directly administer chemotherapy to the cancer cells.

People who receive this type of treatment may experience fatigue as they recover from the surgery and from the chemotherapy. An added benefit of this unique combination of surgery and high-dose chemotherapy is that patients rarely experience hair loss or nausea, which can be side effects of intravenous chemotherapy. Bharat said patients will also benefit from peace of mind, knowing that their surgeons did everything possible to combat the cancers they’re facing.

“It takes an experienced team to provide this specialized surgery, and it is available at only a few exceptional health systems in the United States,” Bharat said. “We are proud to offer patients a better option for fighting aggressive cancers of the chest.”