Revolutionizing Cancer Treatment: The Rise of HIPEC and Perfusion Therapy

Cancer incidence is on the rise, and the American Cancer Society forecasts that there will be a staggering 2 million new cancer diagnoses in 2024.

The risk of dying from cancer, however, has steadily declined over the past 30 years. This decline can be attributed to many things, but advancements in cancer treatments are certainly a factor.

Stages of HIPEC

One of those treatment advances, used for the first time in 1980, is hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC). HIPEC surgery involves two stages. The first is cytoreductive surgery, in which the surgeon opens the abdominal cavity and removes all visible tumors and diseased tissue. Once this is completed, the surgeon then inserts catheters that are connected to a perfusion machine, which begins stage two, which is the actual HIPEC part. Through the perfusion machine, IV solution is circulated through the abdominal cavity and is heated to temperatures above 107 F (42C) to super warm both the targeted tissue and the surrounding abdominal cavity. This part of the procedure generates a cancerous cellular kill in and of itself. Chemotherapeutic drugs are then added to the solution and heated circulation continues for 90 to 120 minutes to kill any remaining cancer cells. This procedure improves chemotherapeutic drug absorption and its effect to the targeted tissue and surrounding area with minimum exposure to the rest of the body. In this way, the normal side effects of chemotherapy can hopefully be avoided. This innovative procedure can improve long-term outcomes and provide more treatment options for patients who have been diagnosed with inoperable or advanced stage cancer.

Many types of advanced cancers respond well to these HIPEC perfusion therapies, and rapid testing and innovation by some of the nation’s leading cancer centers is leading to frequent new and advanced treatment opportunities.

SpecialtyCare has been a part of thousands of HIPEC surgeries and innovative perfusion chemotherapy treatments over many years. A recent example occurred at Moffitt Cancer Center, a leading innovator in cancer treatments in Tampa, Florida. Moffitt had pioneered a highly specialized HIPEC treatment called percutaneous hepatic perfusion (PHP), a high-dose chemotherapy wherein a 30-minute infusion of a prescribed chemotherapeutic agent is delivered directly into the liver. During the surgery, the blood is passed through a proprietary filter (manufactured by Delcath, an interventional oncology company focused on treating liver cancers) and is then returned to systemic circulation.

SpecialtyCare’s Jim Ruggieri Carves Specialized Path

As the on-staff perfusionist who had performed these highly specialized services retired, Moffitt selected SpecialtyCare as the provider of perfusionist services for these future procedures. Moffitt had their retiring staff member train Jim Ruggieri, a SpecialtyCare perfusionist for the past 17 years and an Area Clinical Manager in Central Florida, to perform the highly specialized procedure. Delcath then certified Jim’s training on their proprietary equipment.

Jim became the only perfusionist trained to do this highly specialized procedure in the United States. He has since trained a small number of additional SpecialtyCare perfusionists in the procedure, and may be training others across the nation as the treatment expands to other cancer centers and hospitals.

“Perfusion is crucial in the advancement of emerging cancer treatment technologies and procedures,” Jim shared. “And while this specific technique is highly specialized, and may serve only a smaller number of patients over time, it shows how perfusion can contribute to emerging cancer therapies. As techniques evolve and individual organs can be even more isolated, the opportunities for using perfusion as an integral part of targeted cancer treatments will expand. Perfusionists who enjoy ancillary procedures, or who are interested specifically in cancer treatments, will have more opportunities to be a part of these types of treatment innovations over time.”

Interested in a Career in Perfusion at SpecialtyCare?

Jim Ruggieri chose perfusion as his career because he had an interest in the medical profession, but also liked mechanical hands-on work. Perfusion allowed for both. He joined SpecialtyCare in 2007 because we had an appealing job opening in an area he wanted to be in. Since then, with experience, education and training, he has grown his career into a leadership position, still in that area he loves.

“My Tampa area team at SpecialtyCare is awesome,” said Jim. “I’m not saying we work harder than any other team, but NO team works harder than us! I am pleased to have found my path.”

Are you looking for a place where you can make a difference, like Jim has? Do you want a role where you can contribute to innovative medical advancements, in the center of the OR? Would you like to excel in your career and reach the next level with provided continuing education and training? Contact us today to learn how to join our team.