New treatment provides hope for ovarian cancer patients

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Dr Govender

The South African medical community has made important strides in treating ovarian cancer in the country, after three breakthrough procedures were recently performed at the Life Entabeni Hospital in Durban.

Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is a highly sophisticated procedure for the treatment of abdominal cancers and when it is performed with cytoreductive surgery, it results in longer recurrence-free survival and overall survival than surgery or chemotherapy alone.

This is according to a landmark study conducted in the Netherlands and Belgium and published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2018.

The nine-year randomized control trial included 245 patients with newly diagnosed stage III epithelial ovarian, fallopian tube, or peritoneal cancer. What the study results revealed was that the combination of HIPEC and surgery could improve the survival rate in patients by 12 months.

Peritoneal cancers include ovarian cancer, fallopian tube cancer, primary peritoneal cancer, pseudomyxoma peritonei, appendix cancer, colorectal cancer and mesothelioma.

Dr Naseem Bhorat

“The prognosis for ovarian cancer is poor, with the majority of patients only being diagnosed in stage 3 or 4. So when the study came out, we identified many of our patients who would benefit from the technology but, at the same time, there were no centres in the country performing HIPEC,” says Dr Naseem Bhorat, the surgeon at Life Entabeni Hospital who performed all three HIPEC procedures.

“The study gave me hope that the treatment could give our patients a better chance of beating the disease.”

Understanding the need in South Africa for a new treatment breakthrough like HIPEC, Dr Bhorat, together with gynaecology oncologist Dr Kamendran Govender, travelled to Vienna, Paris and Mumbai to learn the specific techniques and bring this knowledge back to the country.

The team also spent time in the Netherlands, where they were trained by the experienced surgeon, Dr Ignace HJT de Hingh. In a process that took over two years of planning and preparation, hospital staff was specifically trained and a multidisciplinary team of specialists, including an anaesthetist and a perfusionist, was assembled to ensure the safety and recovery of each patient.

According to Dr Bhorat, “The HIPEC technology and equipment is expensive, which is partly why the procedure isn’t widely performed in South Africa. Fortunately, we could partner with Tau Medical Supplies who sponsored the machines and disposables, enabling us to perform the procedure on two patients with pseudomyxoma and one with primary peritoneal cancer.”

Tau Medical Supplies is the exclusive South African distributor of the Performer HT HIPEC system, which is manufactured in Italy by RanD.

Contact TAU Medical Supplies for more information.