Cancers of the appendix are rare, but UC San Diego Health is one of just a few centers nationwide with expertise in managing all types of appendix cancer (also called appendiceal cancer). We are also recognized worldwide for our expertise with
HIPEC, a heated chemotherapy treatment.
Study Results Support New Approaches to Appendix Cancer
“We have been treating appendix cancer like colorectal cancer because it was thought to be the most similar tumor type, but this study identifies the signature differences between these two cancers,” said
Andrew Lowy, MD, FACS. “These findings suggest opportunities to develop novel therapies that specifically target appendix cancer.”
Some appendix cancers produce mucus until they burst and shed cells into the abdominal (peritoneal) cavity. Pseudomyxoma peritonei is another name for such cancers, which produce large amounts of mucin within the abdominal cavity. These are most commonly from the appendix but can sometimes arise from the colon or ovary, as well.
Patients may notice right-sided abdominal discomfort that may have been present for several years prior to diagnosis, abdominal distension, bloating, or sometimes have few symptoms at all. If the tumor is small when discovered, a standard appendectomy (removal of the appendix) may be the only treatment needed.
When appendix cancer has spread to the peritoneum, the smooth membrane that lines the cavity of the abdomen, your surgeon may perform cytoreduction surgery, which removes the cancer in the abdomen. Our surgical oncologists are experts in this complicated procedure. During the surgery, you may receive heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), a technique performed by Andrew Lowy, MD, Joel Baumgartner, MD, and Kaitlyn Kelly, MD. Chemotherapy drugs are heated to about 105 to 110 degrees and circulated over a 90-minute period throughout the abdominal cavity and then removed. Studies have shown that hyperthermia (heat) works especially well with chemotherapy to kill tumor cells, which have an impaired ability to deal with heat. Also, when administered within an open abdomen, the chemotherapy is able to penetrate several millimeters into the peritoneal tissue and kill cancer cells that are not visible.
Other types of appendix cancer include carcinoid, adenocarcinoid, and adenocarcinomas. Some of these may require treatment with systemic (intravenous) chemotherapy prior to consideration of surgery. Our experts will review your particular case in detail and advise you on the best approach to combat your cancer.