New Treatment Offers Alternative to Amputation for Patients With Melanoma

Isolated limb infusion offers an alternative to radical surgery or amputation for patients with metastatic melanoma.

When treating metastatic melanoma, surgery is often impossible because it would require removing large portions of tissue or the entire limb. Isolated limb infusion, which is performed at only a few medical centers around the country, focuses on saving the affected limb while shrinking or eliminating the cancer.

During this outpatient procedure, a tourniquet is applied to stop the blood flow to the limb. A high dose of heated chemotherapy is then injected into the main artery of the affected limb using a catheter to target the cancer. By isolating the limb, the otherwise toxic dosage of chemotherapy will not affect other parts of the body. Following the treatment, drugs are flushed through the main vein and circulation is returned to normal. Side effects are minimal.

“This is a remarkable and frequently effective option for treating patients who otherwise would face amputation or disfiguring surgery. Isolated limb infusion is capable of providing long-term tumor control and better long-term survival,” Karl Bilimoria, MD, surgical oncologist at Northwestern Memorial and member of the Lurie Cancer Center in Chicago, stated in a press release. “We are pleased to be able to offer an alternative that can increase their chance of survival, preserve their limb and improve their quality of life.”

According to Bilimoria, approximately two-thirds of patients will significantly benefit from the 2-hour procedure, with noticeable shrinkage of the tumor in as little as 1 month.

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