What if you could treat disease that you can’t see or feel while performing surgery on patients? The Department of Thoracic Surgery at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center has found early success in using a pioneering surgical technique for lung cancer patients that enables the direct delivery of chemotherapy to the lung.
“As I became a lung cancer surgeon, I realized using the same technique I had used as a heart surgeon – controlling blood circulation while still protecting the heart – might treat the diseases we can’t see in the lung,” says Todd Demmy, MD, FACS, professor of oncology and thoracic surgeon at Roswell Park.
The technique, called lung suffusion, allows a minimally invasive delivery of chemotherapy drugs like cisplatin to the lung. Initially, the Roswell Park surgical team administered a single infusion of cisplatin directly into a lung of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. They temporarily replaced blood in the main artery of the affected lung, limiting exposure of healthy, non-cancerous tissue. After infusing the drug, they waited 30 minutes, then flushed out the cisplatin and resumed normal blood flow. Subsequent trials used higher-dose chemotherapy levels on patients with metastatic pulmonary disease.
Results show lung suffusion to be safe, reproducible and promising, with numerous potential applications. The technique has brought significant reductions in targeted tumor volumes. Patients find their tumors have shrunk, they have no signs of lung damage, and they are going home in one to three days. Furthermore, it is believed the technique could possibly prevent recurrence of cancer we didn’t know was there when we operated.
Today, Roswell Park has a research program for metastatic lung cancer and sarcoma patients, with interest in expanding to include immunotherapies. Lung suffusion offers the opportunity for surgeons to bring in skills, expertise and new technology to the operating room from colleagues in other areas, including radiation and medical oncology. I believe suffusion therapy will play an important role in helping us improve the outcomes of disease and actually prevent cancer in the future.
If you have patients that would benefit from the program, please contact Todd Demmy, MD, FACS, thoracic surgeon at Roswell Park, Todd.Demmy@Roswellpark.org.
For more information about Roswell Park’s innovative treatment approaches, visit PhysicianResources.RoswellPark.org.