What is hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC)?

Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is an innovative type of cancer treatment. During this procedure, doctors perform a surgery and apply chemotherapy directly to the area impacted by cancer, instead of giving it through an IV or as a pill. HIPEC isn’t widely performed yet, but it’s shown positive results for some cancers that have been hard to treat.

To learn more, we spoke with stomach cancer surgeon Brian Badgwell, M.D.

How does HIPEC work?

Following a surgery to remove tumors and possibly the surrounding area, doctors pump heated chemotherapy into the patient’s abdominal cavity. Then, the surgeons ensure that the chemotherapy drugs are evenly distributed by shaking the patient back and forth on the operating table. As with traditional chemotherapy, the goal is to kill all the cancer cells and stop the tumors from growing.

Next, the chemotherapy drugs are drained from the patient’s body. Finally, the abdomen is rinsed, and the doctors close the incision.

What types of cancer can be treated with HIPEC?

HIPEC is used to treat mesothelioma, ovarian, colorectal and appendix cancers. We’re now also starting to look at its effectiveness in treating stomach cancer. In fact, I recently conducted a study on treating stomach cancer using HIPEC. It showed promising results, with metastatic stomach cancer patients who received HIPEC living longer.

What are the benefits of HIPEC?

Because it’s done during surgery, heated chemotherapy can be applied directly to the area impacted by the cancer. This increases the chances that the cancer is really gone and less likely to come back, without the side effects from traditional chemotherapy, like a decrease in blood counts or nausea.

How do I know if HIPEC is the right cancer treatment for me?

If you’re planning to undergo surgery as part of your cancer treatment, your doctor can help determine if HIPEC is right for you. We decide this based on several factors. Patients who have already responded well to standard types of chemotherapy are more likely to respond well to HIPEC. And patients who are otherwise healthy tend to have an easier time recovery from surgery.

What is recovery from HIPEC like?  

You’ll spend a week or two in the hospital, then an additional two to three weeks recovering at home. Most patients need to use a feeding tube following surgery if they have all or part of the stomach surgically removed along with the tumor, but the amount of time needed varies from patient to patient.

What’s your advice for patients considering HIPEC?

HIPEC is a highly specialized treatment that isn’t performed at many hospitals. So, make sure you pick a surgeon who has performed the procedure many times. At MD Anderson, we perform the procedure about 100 times each year.  

What research is being done on HIPEC?

We’re currently conducting a study to determine if HIPEC can help treat patients with stage IV stomach cancer. So far, we’ve seen encouraging results.  We’re also looking at developing HIPEC alternatives that would be easier on both surgeons and patients, and would still achieve the same positive results.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.