Health Headlines: Milder treatments for colorectal cancer

Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 8:34 AM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - The number of people who will need chemotherapy is expected to double in the next twenty years. It’s a harsh drug that ravages the body but is used to kill cancer cells. Now, a new study supports a delivery system used in the 90′s to target some of the hardest to treat cancers, without impacting the rest of the body.

Stephen Lynch was thrown a curve ball a few years ago when a colonoscopy revealed he had cancer.

He recalled the event saying, “And kind of a fear shoots through you, you know. You go from, oh, I’m healthy to no problem to, I have a mass.”

Then his thoughts went to his kids.

“I wanna see them grow up. And the idea that you might have some disease that robs you of being able to see that is really sad.”

Chemo and surgery held the cancer at bay for a year, but then, two lesions showed up in his liver. His cancer had advanced to stage four and Stephen’s care team at Northwestern Memorial Hospital recommended the only FDA-approved HAI pump that delivers chemo directly to the liver.

Dr. Ryan Merkow, who is a surgical oncologist for Lurie Cancer Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, explained the procedure, “It’s the size of a hockey puck, and we actually install it in the abdominal wall.”

A catheter attaches to the pump, delivering chemo into a main artery feeding into the liver.

“It’s unique in that we can deliver very high doses of chemotherapy into the liver at concentrations of three to 400 times what the liver would normally seek compared to systemic chemotherapy,” says Dr. Merkow.

The chemo doesn’t exit the liver and doesn’t affect the rest of the body. With standard chemo, Lynch had a 50% chance of no recurrence. But with the new pump, his chances increase to 80%.

A recent scan showed no evidence of Stephen’s cancer, allowing him to stop worrying and focus on his family.

He said, “I know I’ve got today. I know everything’s good, right now. So, let’s live it up and enjoy, enjoy that.”

The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk of colorectal cancer get their first colonoscopy at the age of 45 and then every ten years after that.