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New treatment offered for isolated sarcomas, melanomas

Posted: Tuesday, June 11, 2013 · Volume: XLVI · Issue: 12

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UT Medicine San Antonio’s Alfredo Santillan, M.D., M.P.H., is performing a new treatment for isolated melanomas and sarcomas on an arm or leg. The new treatment is proving to be much easier on the body and reduces the need for amputation.
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UT Medicine San Antonio’s Alfredo Santillan, M.D., M.P.H., is performing a new treatment for isolated melanomas and sarcomas on an arm or leg. The new treatment is proving to be much easier on the body and reduces the need for amputation.clear graphic

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By Elizabeth Allen

Imagine that you’ve got a serious melanoma or sarcoma on your arm or leg and that you might lose that limb.

The doctors could significantly reduce the chances you would need to have an amputation if they could treat that spot with a powerful drug — but the rest of your body couldn’t handle the treatment.

Here is how Alfredo Santillan, M.D., M.P.H., would deal with that at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center: He would put a tourniquet on the affected limb to cut off the circulation to the rest of the body, and then pump powerful chemotherapy drugs into the limb that remain there for more than half an hour before they are pumped out and circulation is restored.

Only practice in area that offers this treatment
“We are the only ones offering this option in this area,” said Dr. Santillan, a UT Medicine San Antonio surgical oncologist and assistant professor in the Department of Surgery in the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. “It is an important option to be able to offer our patients.”

The patients’ responses to the procedure so far are divided roughly into thirds, with 31 percent having a complete recovery, another third a partial recovery and the remainder showing no response to the treatment.

Minimally invasive procedure with shorter healing time
Isolated limb infusion (ILI) is a minimally invasive technique that can reduce the need for amputations in patients with isolated melanomas on their arms or legs. It is replacing another method, isolated limb perfusion (ILP), that uses a large incision, takes longer to perform and has a longer healing time.

“The results of ILI are similar to those of ILP, but it is much easier on the body,” Dr. Santillan said. “It is still very new so it has not yet become the standard of care, but with the advantages it offers, I have no doubt it is the best option for some of our patients.”

 
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