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Hepatic Artery Infusion Pump Chemotherapy: A New and Promising Way to Treat Metastasized Colorectal Cancer

In its later stages, colorectal cancer can spread, or metastasize, to other organs in the body. One common site of metastasis is the liver, with about half of colorectal cancer patients developing liver metastases at some point in their cancer journey.

Treating a metastasis to the liver can be complicated. The ultimate goal is to remove the tumor surgically, but only about 15–20 percent of patients present with tumors that can be surgically removed when they are first discovered. This is because they are often too big or too numerous to be safely taken out at the start of treatment.

“Chemotherapy can help shrink some large liver tumors so they can be removed, but unfortunately, traditional chemotherapy doesn’t work for every patient,” said Jason A. Castellanos, MD, MS, a surgical oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

What can shrink colorectal liver metastases more effectively is something called a hepatic arterial infusion pump—a new and advanced method of delivering chemotherapy directly to these tumors.

“Hepatic arterial infusion pump chemotherapy is a way to increase chemotherapy dosage to the liver for an improved response,” Castellanos said.

The pump can help make surgery an option for more patients, which is the only treatment option that offers a chance at long-term cure.

How the Hepatic Arterial Infusion Pump Works

The hepatic artery infusion pump is about the size of a hockey puck. It is implanted surgically under the skin in the left abdomen and connected to the hepatic artery, which supplies blood to the liver.

The pump is filled with chemotherapy that is released slowly and steadily into the hepatic artery. This method delivers a higher dose of chemotherapy to the tumor without causing the same side effects as traditional chemotherapy.

Patients are treated with pump chemotherapy on and off every two weeks for up to six months.

“Treatment is given in combination with systemic chemotherapy so that we are able to target tumor cells that may be outside of the liver while also focusing on shrinking the liver tumors,” Castellanos said.

Throughout treatment, patients are closely monitored and undergo frequent lab work to make sure the liver and bile ducts remain healthy. They also receive regular scans to see if the tumors have shrunk enough to be surgically removed.

Who Is Eligible for the Hepatic Arterial Infusion Pump?

This treatment option is a good fit for individuals who have liver metastases that are confined to the liver but cannot be removed from the liver surgically at the present time.

Expertise Matters

Many patients with colorectal liver metastases do not realize they could be candidates for liver surgery. This is why it is a good idea to seek a second opinion at a specialized cancer center that offers the latest treatment options.

Fox Chase is one of the few facilities in the Philadelphia region that offers treatment with the hepatic arterial infusion pump.

Along with offering this advanced treatment option, we offer a variety of other treatments for colorectal cancer patients with liver metastases. Our multidisciplinary team understands that treatment of this disease is complex, and we take an individualized approach when caring for each of our patients.

To schedule an appointment at Fox Chase Cancer Center, please call 888-369-2427 or request an appointment online.