Researchers at Cleveland Clinic in Ohio have recently developed a treatment that could extend the lives of those battling colorectal cancer, the third leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S.
One of the unfortunate aspects of colorectal cancer is that it oftentimes causes metastases to the liver, and many patients are not eligible for liver surgery. So Cleveland Clinic researchers have come up with a new protocol to treat these liver mets: transplants. Dr. Cristiano Quintini, director of the liver transplant program at Cleveland Clinic, says that liver transplants add greatly to the survival rates of these patients.
A 44-year old mother to four boys was among the first to take advantage of this new treatment. Carole Motycka was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer when she went to the ER with shoulder pain. Her liver was so covered in tumors that she needed a pump to deliver chemotherapy straight to her liver.
Unfortunately, the pump is effective at killing cancer, but very damaging to the biliary tree. Although Carole was cancer-free in 2017, her treatments ultimately caused her to develop liver failure. Dr. Quntini advised her to seek out a living liver donor, as the list of patients awaiting donor livers is extensive. Most people die or become too sick while they are waiting for a liver to become available.
Out of hope and desperation to save her life, Carole sought support from her church in their weekly bulletin. Miraculously, Jason Stechschute, a man she only barely knew, offered to give her a part of his liver. After rounds of tests that revealed he was a perfect match, Jason and Carole underwent surgery.
Both are doing well and are back to living their normal lives, now as great friends. The research performed by Cleveland Clinic, as well as Jason’s generous offer, allowed Carole to see her Drew son graduate from high school.
One of Carole’s doctors, Dr. Frederico Aucejo, director of the liver cancer program, says that the new protocols combining surgical and non-surgical treatments are allowing people like Carole to survive longer with late-stage liver cancers. In fact, a study done in Norway recently showed that liver transplants done on patients with liver metastases increased their 5-year survival rate to 60 percent.