A new study conducted by Nancy E. Kemeny, MD, an Attending Physician in the Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center said that patients whose colorectal cancer has spread to the liver fared better by receiving hepatic arterial infusion (HAI). In this technique chemotherapy was administered directly to the liver through a pump in the abdomen. It was found that the patients on the HAI therapy lived longer and had better quality of life than those receiving the traditional, intravenous chemotherapy. The results of the study were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
This study demonstrated the effectiveness of the hepatic arterial infusion therapy. It showed that it extended the survival and improved the quality of life in patients with colorectal cancer that has spread to the liver. These findings are very important because statistics show that cancer metastasis to the liver occurs in 60 % of patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. This discovery will also reduce the number of deaths due to liver tumors.
The study was conducted by researchers from the Cancer and Leukemia Group B and the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group. The participants consisted of 135 patients who received either HAI or systemic chemotherapy. Prior to this all of the patients are needed to undergo surgical removal of their primary tumors in the colon. In case of patients receiving HAI then underwent an additional surgical procedure to have chemotherapy pump inserted into their abdomen.
Researchers found that patients receiving HAI lived longer (median survival rate of 24 months) than those receiving systemic chemotherapy. They also had better response rates (47 %) and longer time to disease progression in the liver (9.8 months).
On the other hand patients receiving systemic chemotherapy experienced various side effects such as diarrhea, decreased white blood cell counts, and hair loss. However, patients on the HAI regimen experienced mild toxicity to the liver.
In case of both the regimes women fared better than men, with median survival in the HAI group of 29.4 and 20.1 months for women and men, respectively, and in the systemic group it was 22.0 and 18.3 months.
This research was initiated in the year 1996, before the novel chemotherapy drugs such as irinotecan and oxaliplatin were available. In the study the patients received fluorouracil and leucovorin. Dr. Kemeny said that future studies are underway using HAI therapy in combination with newer drugs.