GREENVILLE, N.C. – Vidant Medical Center is the first hospital in the mid-Atlantic region to offer a new treatment option for pancreatic cancer. The treatment involves the use of a novel catheter-based system, the RenovoRx double balloon catheter device, to allow the physician to deliver high doses of chemotherapy directly to the pancreatic tumor, resulting in potentially superior outcomes and fewer adverse side effects. 

Conventional chemotherapy treatment options deliver the chemotherapy “systemically,” meaning it is injected into and travels throughout the bloodstream, reaching and affecting all cells throughout the body. 

The new treatment option – similar to a cardiac catheterization procedure – involves threading a catheter through the patient’s vascular system to deliver chemotherapy directly to the pancreas via the blood vessel segment around the tumor. Two tiny balloons on the catheter are inflated to prevent the flow of blood in and out of the blood vessel, allowing the physician to administer an infusion of chemotherapy directly to the tumor while avoiding the surrounding, non-cancerous tissue. 

This more targeted and localized approach allows the oncology team to deliver a significantly higher dose of chemotherapy because there is a much lower risk of it reaching and affecting other organs. This approach to therapy may shrink pancreatic tumors more effectively than conventional chemotherapy, which may help pancreatic cancer patients who previously were not candidates for surgical intervention because their tumors had invaded surrounding blood vessels essential for survival. It is being offered to patients in eastern North Carolina as part of a registry trial which carefully documents and follows tumor response, treatment side effects and long term outcomes. 

“This catheter provides a viable treatment option for patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer with potentially fewer side effects than other, more conventional approaches. It has the potential to provide a higher therapeutic dose of chemotherapy to possibly shrink tumors enough so they can be removed surgically,” said Dr. Emmanuel Zervos, professor and chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology, Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, and the trial’s principal investigator. 

“Our multi-disciplinary team, including Dr. Prashanti Atluri, assistant professor in the Division of Hematology and Oncology, ECU Brody School of Medicine, and Dr. Chris Thomas, vascular/interventional radiologist with Eastern Radiologists, is dedicated to providing our patients with every possible opportunity for cure,” Zervos added. 

Since the first patient was treated with the RenovoCath system early last year, dozens of others have been successfully treated with it in several major U.S. medical centers.

About Pancreatic Cancer in the U.S. 
Patients facing pancreatic cancer typically have few treatment options available to them, and the disease is almost always fatal. According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2016. The 5-year survival rate is only about 6 percent, partly because the disease is so difficult to diagnose. 

Surgery to remove part or all of the pancreas is the best treatment option with the highest rate of success, but fewer than 15 percent of patients with pancreatic cancer are eligible for surgery. The pancreas is hidden behind the stomach, so tumors often go unnoticed until they have grown to a size where they interfere with the digestive tract or spread to other parts of the body. At that stage, most are inoperable.

Pancreatic tumors typically have very few blood vessels supplying blood to them, making them difficult to treat with conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 

Written By: Beth Anne Atkins