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New Directions

Issue: Fall

Tumor-Blasting Treatments Give Patients New Options

Dr. Andrew Hines

When oncologist Dongmei Wang met Karlette Proctor, it was in Proctor’s darkest hour. Colon cancer had spread to the 57-year-old Gaithersburg woman’s liver, nearly replacing the vital organ with tumor. The cancer was inoperable, her liver was too damaged by cancer, and Proctor was too weak to safely undergo conventional systemic chemotherapy. Under these circumstances, Proctor was given just a couple of weeks to live. But Dr. Wang wasn’t giving up on her patient. She was aware of cutting-edge procedures being performed on some cancer patients that apply high-dose chemotherapy or heat directly to tumors to kill them. The two techniques are called chemoembolization and radiofrequency ablation.


These procedures are known to work in cancer patients with very specific types of tumors and in patients for whom all other therapies have failed. Could this help Proctor? Dr. Wang had to act quickly. She found Dr. Andrew Hines, an interventional radiologist at Suburban Hospital, with the practice of Doctors Groover, Christie, and Merritt. In the past year alone, he had performed more than 100 of these specialized cancer treatments. X-ray, CT and ultrasound imaging is used to target the tumor precisely; then, in the case of chemoembolization, a very high dose of chemotherapy is administered through the patient’s blood vessels directly to the tumor to kill it. With radiofrequency ablation, a needle is inserted into the center of the tumor and heated to burn and kill it.


If the tumors in Proctor’s liver could be killed, and if sufficient liver function returned, she could regain enough strength to begin traditional chemotherapy to

treat her colon cancer. It was Proctor’s only hope.


Dr. Hines performed the chemoembolization. He entered an artery in the leg with a needle, and, using real-time X-rays as a guide, he advanced very small catheters through the puncture site into the arteries of the liver. Once in the liver, each tumor was carefully selected and the chemotherapy delivered to each of at least 20 tumors. Twelve weeks later, Proctor’s liver was 98 percent clear of tumor. For Drs. Hines and Wang, it was exactly the outcome they had hoped for.


Dr. Hines notes that cancer treatment has evolved, and the key for cancer patients and their doctors is to be aware, as Dr. Wang was, of all available treatment options.


Proctor is not out of the woods yet, however. According to Dr. Wang, the colon cancer should respond well to traditional infusion chemotherapy and Proctor is currently receiving these treatments. When we last spoke with Karlette Proctor, she was going to the beach, and that’s all she was thinking about for now.


To Learnmore | See and hear Dr. Hines talk about these cancer treatments at http://www.suburbanhospital.org/HealthInfo/chatArchive.aspx.  Visit our Cancer Care page on the Web here.


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