The ‘chemo-bath’ technique could allow much higher doses to be used without side-effects such as hair loss and infertility.
Experts believe the same approach could be used to treat inoperable cancers in the kidney, pancreas or even lung.
Two patients at Southampton General Hospital have been treated for metastatic liver cancer with the ‘chemo-bath’ technique, resulting in tumour reduction with minimal side-effects.
Whereas traditional chemotherapy exposes the entire body to the drug’s effects, the ‘chemo-bath’ confines almost all the dose to the targeted organ.
The organ is isolated by inflating balloons inside the proximal and distal blood vessels before the drug is injected; the drug is then filtered out of the organ before the circulation is restored.
Radiologist Dr Brian Stedman (pictured) said: “To cut off an organ from the body for 60 minutes, soak it in a high dose of drug and then filter the blood almost completely clean before returning is truly groundbreaking.
“Previously, the outlook for patients specifically suffering from cancer which has spread to the liver has been poor because standard chemotherapy’s effect is limited by the unwanted damage the drug causes to the rest of the body.”
Dr Stedman said that although the technique was “in its infancy” and may need further refinement, it holds out the prospect of application to a number of organs where metastatic tumours are inoperable.
The technique is being tested in other EU countries and in the US.