HAI cancer treatment from the 1990s coming back

Published: August 3, 2022 7:33 PM EDT

A new study supports a delivery system used in the 90s to target some of the hardest to treat cancers without impacting the rest of the body.

Chemotherapy is normally the first line of defense for the near 1,800,000 people that will find out they have cancer this year.

A few years ago Stephen Lynch got news nobody wants to after a colonoscopy revealed he had cancer.

“And kind of a fear shoots through you, you know,” Lynch said. “You go from, oh, I’m healthy to no problem to, I have a mass.”

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Stephen Lynch on a walk with his children. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Lynch’s thoughts quickly shifted toward his children after getting the news. “I wanna see them grow up,” Lynch said. “And the idea that you might have some disease that robs you of being able to see that is really sad.”

Chemo and surgery were kept at bay for a year, then, two lesions showed up in Lynch’s liver, the cancer was advancing to stage four. His care team at Northwestern Memorial Hospital recommended the only FDA-approved HAI pump that delivers chemo directly to the liver.

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FDA-approved HAI pump that delivers chemo directly to the liver. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Ryan Merkow, MD is a surgical oncologist at the Lurie Cancer Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “It’s the size of a hockey puck, and we actually install it in the abdominal wall,” Merkow said.

A catheter attaches to the pump delivering chemo into one of the main arteries feeding into the liver. “It’s unique in that we can deliver very high doses of chemotherapy into the liver at concentrations of three to 400 times what the liver would normally seek compared to systemic chemotherapy,” Merkow said.

The chemo doesn’t exit the liver nor does it affect the rest of the body. With standard chemo, Lynch had a 50% chance of recurrence, but with the new pump, his chances increase to 80%.

Lynch’s recent scan showed no evidence of cancer which means he can focus on his family and not having cancer. “I know I’ve got today,” Lynch said. “I know everything’s good, right now. So, let’s live it up and enjoy, enjoy that.”

More than 100,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed each year. The rate of people being diagnosed has dropped significantly since the mid-1980s mainly due to the fact people are getting screened earlier. The American Cancer Society recommends that people at average risk of colorectal cancer get their first colonoscopy at 45-years-old and then every 10 years after that.