Sunday, June 19, 2011

Machine brings new hope for cancer patients

It's called the modern day medical marvel. HIPEC, a first of its kind machine in India, has proved a life-saver for two Stage IV cancer patients and holds the promise to be a boon for other such cancer patients when the traditional intravenous chemotherapy treatment fails.

The Hyperthermic Intra-Peritonial Chemotherapy (HIPEC) machine has been installed at Mumbai's L.H. Hiranandani Hospital.

With Tata Cancer Hospital, one of the biggest cancer hospitals in the country, already overburdened with cancer surgeries, the HIPEC procedure can provide relief to several patients who otherwise would have to wait for many months for their turn.

Priced at Rs.6 million (over $130,000) HIPEC is manufactured by a French company. The procedure uses a high concentration of chemotherapy.

The machine has already proved to be a life-saver for two patients who have been successfully operated upon using a combination of cytoreductive surgery -- which involves reducing number of cancer cells -- and HIPEC.

"The right combination of these two aspects of the treatment are critical for the success of the strategy," Sanket Mehta, the medico who conducted both the surgeries, told us.

According to Mehta, there are only 35 centres around the world that undertake the HIPEC treatment, a majority of them being in Europe and the US.

Mehta, who has specially been trained in France for cytoreductive surgery and HIPEC, said it is also vital to have an excellent anaesthesia team and trained intensive care unit for a successful outcome.

"Hence, it cannot be done everywhere and needs a complete team effort," he said, adding that the treatment starts from Rs.5 lakh.

Sadashiv Patidar, 65, a farmer from Madhya Pradesh, was the first patient to have successfully undergone the surgery. He was suffering from Pseudomyxoma Peritoneii -- a stage IV complicated case of cancer of appendix.

During the surgery, all the visible tumours within the abdominal cavity were removed. Following this, chemotherapy through the HIPEC was administered at very high concentration -- at a high temperature and high flow rate, using a special machine to eradicate microscopic residual disease.

Mehta and his team removed about five kg of tumours and three litres of jelly like material, the very characteristic of pseudomyxoma.

"I started getting recurrent bouts of vomiting and had difficulty in walking when it all started six months back," said Patidar, a sugarcane and cotton farmer from Budwani in Indore district.

Patidar, who spent close to Rs.1 million, for the entire treatment, was thankful to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for the Rs.2 lakh allotted to him from the Chief Minister's Fund and also the hospital authorities for giving a Rs.1 lakh concession on the surgery.

Mehta said the treatment has increased Patidar's survival chances by up to 10 years. "He is eating well and there is no weakness. He has recovered extremely well," he said.

After Patidar, Mehta operated upon a 50-year-old woman, a complicated case of stage IV cancer of the appendix.

Meha says the treatment is applicable for various kinds of stage IV cancers like pseudomyxomas (cancer of appendix spread to entire abdomen), colorectal cancers (cancer of the large intestine), ovarian cancers and mesotheliomas (primary cancer of pertonium - serous membrane that forms the lining of the abdominal covering most of the intra-abdominal organs).

He says that with the help of the treatment, a significant number of patients with pseudomyxomas can survive for up to 10 years and there is also a good chance of cure.

Every year, Mumbai alone witnesses 4,000 new cases of pseudomyxomas and mesothiliomas, a majority of whom succumb to their illness due to the limitations of the conventional treatment.

"More than 2,000 new cases of stage IV colorectal and ovarian cancers would also be potentially eligible for this treatment," Mehta said.

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