New targeted chemotherapy used at Abu Dhabi hospital for first time

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi treated a patient with a heat-based chemotherapy procedure that greatly boosts survival rates for those fighting late-stage abdominal cancer

A patient undergoes an MRI scan, a test that can be used to find tumours. Getty
A patient undergoes an MRI scan, a test that can be used to find tumours. Getty

A targeted chemotherapy treatment offering a lifeline to patients battling late-stage abdominal cancer has been used successfully in the UAE capital.

Doctors at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi said hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, or Hipec, offered a “30 to 40 per cent” five-year survival rate for patients who would otherwise have little to no chance of living this long.

The treatment involves heating drugs before they are administered and is used when tumours have spread to the lining of the abdominal cavity.

Rather than facing a series of intravenous infusions, patients receive a single dose of chemotherapy delivered directly to the abdomen.

This treatment is truly a lifeline for people with late stage abdominal cancer

Dr Yasir Akmal

Hipec is given immediately after surgery to remove all visible tumours.

It is administered while the patient is still in the operating room and destroys any remaining cancer cells.

“In some more advanced cases of abdominal cancer, patients may have hundreds of small tumours in their abdominal lining,” said Dr Yasir Akmal, an oncologic surgeon at the hospital.

“While these can be removed with surgery, a strong, targeted dose of chemotherapy is needed to kill any cancer cells left behind.

“Not only are we able to deliver the drugs directly to the affected area, it only requires a single dose, minimising the side effects for patients.”

The new Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy treatment for abdominal cancer carried out at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. Roy Cooper / The National 
The new Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy treatment for abdominal cancer carried out at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. Roy Cooper / The National 

Hipec is not new but it has been used in only a handful of hospitals worldwide.

In the procedure, the drugs are heated to 42°C, which enables them to penetrate tissue more deeply.

During the infusion, the patient’s body is gently rocked to ensure the chemotherapy reaches all parts of the abdominal cavity. The patient is placed on a cooling pad during the procedure to prevent overheating.

After the single treatment, patients remain in the hospital for about 10 days. Once recovered, they can return to their usual lives under the close supervision of their care team.

“This treatment is truly a lifeline for people with late-stage abdominal cancer. The five-year survival rate for patients who undergo Hipec is around 30 to 40 per cent, a number that would be close to zero without it,” Dr Akmal said.

“It’s a great option that gives years of a person’s life back.”

Doctors at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi expect to carry out a dozen more such treatments within the next 12 months.

The hospital, on Al Maryah Island, is expanding its cancer services and will open a dedicated oncology centre soon.

Modelled on Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Centre in Ohio, United States, the department will provide many advanced treatments and house support services designed to make patients as comfortable as possible.

Dr Akmal said the patient was recovering well.

“Surgery went very well,” he said. “Usually we expect patients in the hospital for 10 to 14 days, but she was here for less than a week.”

Updated: July 6, 2020 04:17 PM

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