Hipec: Controversial 'Hot Chemo Bath' Treatment Grows In Popularity

A new cancer treatment called Hipec (hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy) is slowly growing in popularity -- one that involves surgically removing cancerous tumors from the abdominal cavity, then bathing the cavity with hot chemotherapy to kill any cancer cells left in there.

The idea behind the treatment is that heat at 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is able to kill cancer cells without affecting normal cells in the body, according to the University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center, which offers the treatment to qualifying patients.

In addition, heat supposedly makes the chemotherapy more powerful at killing cancer cells, as well as softens the nodules of the tumors so that the chemotherapy can more easily penetrate them, according to UCSD.

Proponents of the treatment say that the treatment helps cancer patients live longer than they might be expected to, but critics say that they may have done well even without the therapy, the New York Times reported. In addition, critics say there isn't enough scientific evidence that it works.

There are about 1,500 of the Hipec treatments done now, but that number could grow to 10,000 per year as more hospitals add it to their cancer-treating repertoires, the New York Times reported. Among such hospitals that have recently added it: Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y., Massachusetts General and University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

The treatment is good for patients with only specific cancers, like mesothelioma, appendix cancer and pseudomyxoma peritonea (a rare cancer in the abdominal cavity that produces proteins called mucin), as well as some patients with colon cancer, according to UCSD.

Cancer treatments are increasingly innovative, as Hipec exemplifies. The Food and Drug Administration approved earlier this year a treatment for brain cancer, that kills tumor cells using electrical energy fields -- patients who used this treatment had the same outcomes as patients on chemotherapy, but with fewer side effects.

For more about Hipec, read the New York Times article here.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified the University of California, San Diego as the University of San Diego.