Roberta Sand, 67, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer four years ago. After multiple surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy, doctors told her she was not responding to treatment.
"My doctor told me I had a good two years to live. And that had a profound effect on me, as you can imagine," Sand said.
So, Sand enrolled in an experiment at Columbia University Medical Center that uses heated chemotherapy. It's called hyperthermic intraoperative chemotherapy or HIPEC.
Doctors remove the tumor, then immediately treat the area with the heated chemo. The drugs are warmed in a machine and delivered directly through the patient's abdomen.
"This sort of circulates on a circuit for 60 to 90 minutes while they are asleep," said Dr. Sharyn Lewin of NY-Presbyterian/Columbia.
Traditional chemotherapy is administered at about room temperature. With this method, doctors heat the treatment to about 108 degrees, enough to make some patients break out in a sweat.
"We think the heat makes the chemotherapy work better and makes the cancer cells more sensitive to the treatment," Lewin said.
The treatment has many of the same side effects as traditional chemotherapy.
"I want to kill this cancer. This is a nasty cancer. I want to be aggressive and I want to kill it," Sand said.
Sand's cancer was in remission for five months. And even though it's back, she says the treatment gave her a better quality of life.
Heated chemo has had success with other types of cancer.
Doctors are testing the treatment on 30 ovarian cancer patients and hope to have results in the next two to three years.
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