A New Treatment Targets Cancer In The Liver

March 01, 2013

Researchers at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John’s Health Center continue to pioneer cancer treatments that are being used around the world. Mark Faries, MD, director of JWCI’s melanoma research program, has helped develop a treatment called “isolated liver perfusion” and has been training other surgeons in England, Germany and France to perform this cutting-edge procedure.

Oncologists know that advanced melanoma (skin cancer) tends to spread more often to particular areas, including the liver – a vital organ. This innovative, interdisciplinary technique, called hepatic perfusion, involves physically isolating blood vessels leading to and from the liver and then delivering chemotherapy directly to the organ in doses far higher than patients can normally tolerate. By isolating the blood vessels, the poisonous therapy doesn’t escape into the body.

Using this method, Dr. Faries and other researchers in the United States have demonstrated remarkable responses in patients whose tumors were resistant to all other forms of therapy. Saint John’s Health Center is the only site on the West Coast approved to perform this procedure.

“It sounds complex, but this treatment is really just a combination of fairly standard techniques,” says Dr. Faries. “The problem with melanoma is that it is fairly resistant to chemotherapy, and the amount of chemotherapy we have to use to kill the melanoma is probably enough to kill the person as well. But this method enables us to target the liver without harming the patient.”