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New treatment for liver mets

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New Cancer Treatment Extends Patients' Lives By Years

Procedure Developed At Jefferson University Hospital

POSTED: 2:56 pm EDT May 20, 2004

UPDATED: 1:30 pm EDT May 25, 2004

A medical breakthrough at a local hospital is giving hope and life to people with cancer who thought they had none.

Esther Damaser remembers the day she began seeing a twinkling in her eye. It took four ophthalmologists to finally diagnose her with uveal melanoma. It is not related to skin melanoma -- it is cancer of the eye.

"Well, I thought I was going to die then. That was in 1980, so obviously I didn't. I thought I would never see my son's bar mitzvah. He was 12, and he was bar mitzvahed at 13, so of course, I did," Damaser remembered.

But eight years later Damaser's eye cancer came back. It also came back a year ago, only this time it was in her liver.

"Once the patient develops metastasis, usually they develop it in the liver. That is fatal. Usually a patient lives only six months," said Dr. Takami Sato.

But now, Sato has developed a breakthrough treatment that is prolonging people's lives.

Damaser has come to Philadelphia four times from her home in Ohio for the procedure developed at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

"After we treat her with immunoembolization, her tumor decreased more than 50 percent, so I think that is a very good response.

First, after a catheter is threaded into the liver, doctors infuse a drug called GM-CSF to boost the patient's immune system and kill the cancer cells.

Then, gelatin particles are injected to block up the liver's artery, depriving the tumors of the blood that feeds them.

So far, Sato says people who were only living six months are now living more than twice as long on average. And some people are living three or four years longer.

What does the procedure mean to the rest of us?

Sato said it could be used to treat primary liver cancer, and some other cancers that spread to the liver, so it is giving many people hope.

"I just take it day by day, week by week, and I'm now even beginning to think a years from now. Maybe even two years. I have a lot of hope," Damaser told HealthWatch.

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