DiscoverBlood & CancerCan aerosolized chemotherapy better treat peritoneal carcinomatosis in patients with gynecologic or gastrointestinal cancers?
Can aerosolized chemotherapy better treat peritoneal carcinomatosis in patients with gynecologic or gastrointestinal cancers?

Can aerosolized chemotherapy better treat peritoneal carcinomatosis in patients with gynecologic or gastrointestinal cancers?

Update: 2020-12-03


Researchers are conducting the first U.S. trial of pressurized intraperitoneal aerosolized chemotherapy (PIPAC) for the treatment of peritoneal carcinomatosis in patients with gynecologic or gastrointestinal cancers.

Coprincipal investigator Thanh H. Dellinger, MD, of City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., describes this trial and the PIPAC procedure to host David H. Henry, MD, in this episode.

To start, the pair discuss a patient who might be eligible for PIPAC – one with stage 3 ovarian cancer.

General approach to stage 3 ovarian cancer

  • Therapy typically includes a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.
  • The order in which chemotherapy is given, either pre- or postoperatively, depends on performance status and whether patients have extra-abdominal disease or parenchymal liver disease.
  • Operative approaches, including debulking surgery, are pursued if believed to be optimal, meaning all gross residual disease can be resected.
  • If all residual disease cannot be resected, patients are offered neoadjuvant chemotherapy, typically for three to four cycles before an interval debulking surgery, followed by postoperative adjuvant chemotherapy.

Intraperitoneal chemotherapy

  • Intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy is used to treat peritoneal surface malignancies.
  • The peritoneum is a separate organ that is difficult to treat adequately with intravenous chemotherapy alone.
  • Giving IP chemotherapy in combination with intravenous chemotherapy may be more effective than intravenous chemotherapy alone (N Engl J Med. 2006; 354:34-43;
  • However, there are many challenges in delivering IP chemotherapy, including increased side effects of abdominal pain and IP catheter failure.
  • Recent clinical trials have shown that, with the addition of bevacizumab, the survival benefit with IP chemotherapy may not be as significant as prior trials suggested (J Clin Oncol. 2019 Jun 1;37[16]:1380-90;
  • In general, IP chemotherapy has not been embraced by the medical oncology community as much other types of chemotherapies, Dr. Dellinger said.

What is PIPAC?

  • PIPAC is a novel therapy discovered by a German surgical oncologist, Marc A. Reymond, MD, from University of Tuebingen (Germany).
  • PIPAC delivers chemotherapy at a reduced dose directly into the intraperitoneal cavity but in a pressurized and aerosolized form.
  • PIPAC is done at the time of the diagnostic laparoscopy and requires a nebulizer for aerosolization of the chemotherapy as well as a high-pressure injector.
  • This approach allows for the chemotherapy to be pushed deeper into tissues, compared with hyperthermic intraoperative peritoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC).
  • With HIPAC, tissue penetration is typically 1 mm or less. With PIPAC, there is deeper penetration and better distribution of chemotherapy throughout the entire intraperitoneal cavity.
  • With PIPAC, chemotherapeutic agents are given at a lower dose than is typically administered with IP or intravenous chemotherapy, which helps in reducing the toxicity.
  • PIPAC is given every 6 weeks for three cycles, requiring three laparoscopic procedures.
  • These laparoscopic procedures allow for the opportunity to obtain peritoneal tumor biopsies before and after to investigate the natural course of these tumors and their microenvironment.

Toxicity of PIPAC

  • PIPAC has been done in more than 800 patients with gastrointestinal and gynecologic cancers in Europe and Asia.
  • Severe adverse events  have been minimal, with about 12%-15% grade 3/4 SAEs and very rare grade 5 SAEs.
  • The most common side effect is typically abdominal pain, attributed to the IP administration in conjunction with the laparoscopic surgery.
  • Renal toxicity is a concern with intravenous cisplatin use, but this has not yet been seen with PIPAC.
  • With PIPAC, cisplatin is given at 10.1 mg/m2 and doxorubicin is given at 2.1 mg/m2, doses that are much lower than the typical doses for these drugs.

PIPAC in clinical trials

  • PIPAC clinical trials have moved into phase 2 in Europe for ovarian cancer, with a publication demonstrating an objective response rate of over 60% in platinum-resistant ovarian cancer (Gynecol Oncol. 2015 May;137[2]:223-8;
  • A phase 3 trial of PIPAC was planned but was stalled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Because of the need for Food and Drug Administration approval, researchers have just launched the first phase 1 trial of PIPAC in the United States.

Phase 1 trial of PIPAC

  • City of Hope is working with affiliates at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.; Northwell Health in New York; and the National Institutes of Health to enroll eligible candidates for a phase 1 trial (NCT04329494;
  • Eligible candidates include those with gastric, uterine, colorectal, appendiceal, and ovarian cancer with evidence of peritoneal carcinomatosis who have failed at least one line of therapy.
  • PIPAC is an outpatient procedure, but given the trial and need for monitoring, patients typically leave the hospital the following day after blood samples are obtained for the study.
  • City of Hope has recruited seven patients since activating their study in August 2020, with a goal of enrolling 16 patients by spring 2021.

Future directions

  • Peritoneal tumor biopsies obtained during the laparoscopic procedures are being used to study the microenvironment of these cancers.
  • In eventual phase 2 clinical trials, the researchers may include immune checkpoint inhibitors.
  • Biomarker analyses are underway, looking at expression of PD-1 and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes.
  • The researchers are also studying the role of genomic sequencing and DNA repair.


Dr. Dellinger and Dr. Henry have no financial disclosures relevant to this episode.

Show notes by Sheila De Young, DO, resident at Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia.

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Can aerosolized chemotherapy better treat peritoneal carcinomatosis in patients with gynecologic or gastrointestinal cancers?

Can aerosolized chemotherapy better treat peritoneal carcinomatosis in patients with gynecologic or gastrointestinal cancers?