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Hot Chemotherapy Bath: Patients See Hope, Critics Hold Doubts

Posted Aug 13 2011 9:43am

The therapy, which couples extensive abdominal surgery with blasts of heated chemotherapy to the abdominal cavity and its organs, was once a niche procedure used mainly against rare cancers of the appendix. Most academic medical centers shunned it.

More recently, as competition for patients and treatments intensifies, an increasing number of the nation’s leading medical centers has been offering the costly — and controversial — therapy to patients with the more common colorectal or ovarian cancers. And some hospitals are even publicizing the treatment as a hot “chemo bath.”

To critics, the therapy is merely the latest example of one that catches on with little evidence that it really works. “We’re practicing this technique that has almost no basis in science,” said Dr. David P. Ryan, clinical director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.

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