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YOUR HEALTH: A first time transplant for cancer patients

CLEVELAND, Ohio – More than half of patients with colorectal cancer will develop liver metastases and while the standard treatment is liver surgery, only one third of patients are candidates.

Carole Motycka loves hiking and traveling with her four sons and husband.  But when she went to the ER for shoulder pain, the doctor found something else.

"And he said I believe your liver is full of tumors," Carle remembered.

"He said in my right lobe there were just too many to count."

Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related death.

Carole was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer that had spread to her liver.

Doctors had to install a pump that delivered chemo straight to the liver.

"The side effects of this pump, that can kill the cancer, but can also cause some damage to the biliary tree," explained Dr. Cristiano Quintino, the transplant program director at Cleveland Clinics.

"And as a result Carole developed liver failure."

Cleveland Clinic researchers have developed a new protocol to treat liver metastases.

For the first time, patients with this condition can receive a transplant.

"There's a huge survival advantage by adding liver transplantation as a treatment option for those patients," explained Dr. Quintini.

NEW TREATMENT OPTION:   Cleveland Clinic developed a new surgery protocol based on a 2011 pilot study of patients at the University of Oslo in Norway.   The study showed liver transplantation helped colorectal cancer patients with unresectable liver metastases achieve a much higher five-year survival rate.   Along with the new transplant protocol, to improve patient outcomes by liver transplant for treatment of liver metastases from colorectal cancer, the Liver Cancer Program incorporated a hepatic artery chemotherapy infusion pump protocol for patients with disease limited to the liver.   In addition to systemic chemotherapy, patients receive a chemotherapy pump implanted into the abdominal wall.   The pump connects to a catheter that is inserted into one of the arteries that connects to the liver.   As a result of infusing chemotherapy directly into the liver, the pump treats liver metastases more effectively by preventing tumor recurrence after surgery or reducing the bulk of the disease so that it can then be removed during surgery.   Moving forward they expect both liver transplant and hepatic artery chemotherapy pumps to complement each other, improving not only treatment but long term survival rates of cancer patients.

Carole's church put a note in the bulletin about her need for a donor.  And like a miracle, Jason, a man from church she barely knew, offered up part of his liver.

"Carole usually sits with her family right over there", he said.

"I didn't know that I would get to see Drew graduate from high school, but I get that opportunity now, because of what Jason has given to me," said Carole.

Both recovered quickly, and Jason is back doing what he loves.

"Everything's back to normal," he said.  "But now somebody else gets that chance to also be perfectly fine and be normal again."

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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