David C. Koch Regional Perfusion Cancer Therapy Center

The best prognosis for people with cancer comes with early detection, when the disease is still manageable. Unfortunately, many people don’t find out that they have cancer until it's already in an advanced state.

When a tumor becomes so large that complete resection isn't possible without damaging other organs, surgery isn't an option.

Other treatment approaches — such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy — may not work as well in advanced or late-stage cancers. Some people with advanced cancers may be too sick to handle the effects of traditional chemo.

For these late-stage and advanced cancers, regional perfusion may be an option.

If you're not able to have surgery, the David C. Koch Regional Perfusion Cancer Therapy Center can help. We offer treatments that may extend and improve your life.

How Regional Perfusion Works

Regional perfusion differs from traditional chemotherapy in a few ways.

  Delivery method How it works
Traditional chemo Oncologists deliver chemo drugs by IV (through the bloodstream) or by mouth or rectum. In traditional chemo, the drugs kill the cancer cells, but may also kill other healthy cells around the body.
Regional perfusion Regional perfusion delivers high concentrations of chemotherapy agents directly to the site of the cancer. Regional perfusion circulates chemo drugs through an organ or within a defined region. This bathes the cancer in the drugs without affecting other healthy tissues.

As an added benefit, hair loss and nausea are not normally associated with regional perfusion.

Cancers That Respond Well to Regional Perfusion

Certain types of advanced cancers respond particularly well to regional perfusion:

  • Pleural cavity tumors — tumors in the space between the lungs and chest wall.
  • Sarcomas — cancers of the bone, cartilage, and soft tissues.
  • Regionally confined melanoma — skin cancer that has spread through the bloodstream to another part of the body.
  • Neuroendocrine tumors — tumors that grow from cells that release hormones.

Perfusion Treatments for Late-stage and Advanced Cancers

The type of regional perfusion therapy you receive depends on the type and location of your cancer.

Treatments may include:

  • Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) — this surgical technique may begin with the surgeon removing as much of the tumor as possible (debulking). Then, he or she inserts two tubes: one to deliver the heated chemotherapy solution to the tumor and another to return the fluid to the heating equipment. The chemo solution circulates for nearly two hours during the surgery to kill the cancer cells.
  • Hyperthermic pleural perfusion (HPP) — after debulking, the surgeon inserts a tube to deliver the heated chemo solution to the chest cavity and another tube to return the fluid to the heating equipment. The chemo drugs circulate for about two hours to kill the cancer cells confined to the chest cavity. 
  • Isolated hepatic perfusion (IHP) — the surgeon infuses a high concentration of heated chemotherapy drugs into the liver. He or she completely separates the liver's (hepatic) circulatory system from the rest of the body’s circulatory system. This is an open surgery because it requires a large incision to expose the organs and tissues.
  • Isolated limb perfusion — this procedure mostly treats melanomas or sarcomas of the arm or leg. First, the surgeon separates the limb’s circulation from the rest of the body’s circulatory system. Next, he or she delivers the heated chemotherapy solution directly to the limb. Isolated limb perfusion has positive response rates in more than 75 percent of people with advanced melanoma.
  • Transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TACE) — in this procedure, the surgeons administers anticancer drugs directly to the tumor. This blocks the blood supply to the tumor. It also allows a higher concentration of medicine to be in contact with the tumor for a longer time.
  • Yttrium-90 internal radiation therapy — this technique delivers targeted radiation directly to liver tumors via a catheter in the artery. Tiny beads (microspheres) contain a radioactive element called yttrium-90. Because blood vessels that sustain tumors are smaller than those that feed healthy tissue, the beads get stuck in the smaller blood vessels and deliver radiation directly to the tumor. Side effects are often minimal.

About the David C. Koch Regional Perfusion Cancer Therapy Center

Our center is a specialized cancer treatment facility. We also have rich research and training programs.

Research gives patients the chance to participate in clinical trials of new drugs and approaches to regional perfusion.

By taking part in a clinical trial, you can gain access to the most advanced treatments possible while adding to the growing body of knowledge about regional perfusion.

Our academic programs provide perfusion training for surgeons and fellows.

Contact Us About Regional Perfusion Cancer Treatment

Surgeons see Koch Center patients at Hillman Cancer Center, the hub of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center network.

To learn more about regional perfusion therapy, contact the David C. Koch Regional Perfusion Cancer Therapy Center or call UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at 412-647-2811.