Dr. Patricio M. Polanco
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University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Dr. Patricio M. Polanco, M.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Surgical Oncology in the Department of Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center.He focuses on gastrointestinal cancers and has advanced training in minimally invasive techniques, robotic surgery, cytoreductive surgery, and hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC).
A native of Peru, Dr. Polanco graduated as valedictorian of Universidad de San Martin de Porres Medical School. After completing his surgical training in Lima, Peru, he moved to the USA, where he completed a postdoctoral research fellowship and a general surgery residency at the University of Pittsburgh. During his training, Dr. Polanco received several prestigious accolades, including the Alpha Omega Alpha-Honor Medical Society, the Charles C. Moore Teaching Award at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and the Gold Foundation Humanism and Excellence in Teaching Award. He later pursued a Complex Surgical Oncology Fellowship at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
A board-certified surgeon by the American Board of Surgery, Dr. Polanco joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2014.His research involves the analysis of institutional and national cancer databases to answer relevant clinical questions that may help improve cancer therapies and optimize the care of cancer patients. His research has been presented in national and international meetings and published in several surgical journals.
Dr. Polanco is a member of several professional organizations, including the Society of Surgical Oncology, the Association of Hepato-Pancreatobiliary Surgery, the American College of Surgeons, the American Medical Association, and the Texas Medical Society.
When do you use HIPEC?
HIPEC, or hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, is used in conjunction with cytoreductive surgery to treat advanced peritoneal diseases and carcinomatosis. It can be used for select patients with appendiceal cancer, peritoneal mesothelioma, ovarian cancer, and colon cancer that has spread throughout the abdomen.
What is the process?
Cytoreductive surgery essentially removes any visible tumor or peritoneal spread of a GI cancer. We spend several hours in the operating room removing the tumors that we can see. Then we insert a special tubing system that’s connected to a pump that heats and delivers a chemotherapy solution into the abdomen to kill any remaining cancer cells. That takes 90 minutes.
After chemoperfusion is completed, we proceed to reconstruct the areas inside the abdomen that need it. The whole process takes several hours and is like multiple surgeries in one.
What is the benefit of the heated chemotherapy in HIPEC?
Previous studies have shown that heat can kill cancer cells and it also favors the absorption of the chemotherapy drug into tumors.
What are some of the other benefits of HIPEC?
Delivery of chemotherapy in this way keeps it mostly within the abdomen where it’s needed instead of delivering it all over the body. For certain tumors it can be more effective and safer than standard chemotherapy and causes fewer side effects.
Are there any downsides?
The recovery is long, and there’s always the possibility of tumor recurrence.