Medical Oncology: Treatment Options
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Specific chemotherapy treatment options
Some of the specific cancer treatment options the Department of Medical Oncology offers include the following:
- Intra-Arterial Chemotherapy (IAC): A type of regional chemotherapy in which anticancer medications are given directly to a tumor through a catheter placed in the artery that is the tumor's primary blood supply.
- Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (IPC): A type of regional chemotherapy treatment in which anticancer drugs are delivered through a thin tube in the abdominal (peritoneal) cavity to directly target cancerous cells in that area.
- Chemoembolization: A type of regional chemotherapy treatment in which anticancer drugs are delivered directly into blood vessels that feed a tumor to embolize (or block) blood flow to the tumor and/or surrounding tissue. Without a blood supply, the tumor no longer has the oxygen and nutrients it needs to grow. At Eastern, chemoembolization is used often to treat metastatic cancer of the following cancer types: breast, lung, prostate, and colon.
Other drug therapies
Sometimes chemotherapy is used in combination with other drug therapies to enhance its effects. For example, for bowel cancer, the chemotherapy drug Taxol may be used with Avastin®, a drug that ultimately shuts off blood flow to the tumor. Avastin® is an example of a standard biological therapy.
Biological therapies, or immunotherapies, are used to stimulate the body's own immune system to fight cancer. At CTCA, your care team uses monoclonal antibodies, interferons, and other drugs to support the immune system. Our naturopathic clinicians also use natural therapies to boost the power of immune system cells (e.g., T cells) to attack cancerous cells.
Thinking outside the box
Since many patients come to CTCA with advanced stage disease, the medical oncology team is constantly challenging themselves to provide innovative new options. According to Dr. Willis, it is not just about the way the team approaches the disease, but how aggressively they treat it.
“The fact is the majority of patients here—probably 75 percent of them—have advanced disease. So, we have to be aggressive and think outside of the box. We have to come up with novel ways to treat these patients,” says Dr. Willis.
Your clinicians at Eastern will continually seek out the latest research and technologies to uncover new cancer treatment options. “At this center, we have the resources and the tools to bring to the table not only new modalities, but even new drugs, and put them in place in a practical way. I waited four or five years for this hospital to open,” says Dr. Willis.
Metronomic (or fractionated-dose) chemotherapy is one example of this effort. This method of chemotherapy administration may be an option if you cannot tolerate full dosages of chemotherapy. According to Dr. Willis, since it involves delivering smaller doses of chemotherapy more often, fractionated-dose chemotherapy may help reduce the severity of common treatment-related side effects like nausea and vomiting.
“Our approach here is to come up with practical applications of standard drugs in a novel way that is not experimental so it does not require putting people in a protocol. As a result, we are seeing some really good responses in patients with advanced disease,” says Dr. Willis.
Another example is chemoembolization. This method may allow high doses of chemotherapy drugs to be targeted directly to cancerous tumors for a longer period of time, without exposing the entire body to the effect of the drugs.
“Advanced disease, thinking out of the box, and using new techniques epitomizes the approach here. That is our line of expertise,” says Dr. Willis.