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Peritoneal Cancer Treatment & Management

  • Author: Wissam Bleibel, MD; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
Updated: Apr 28, 2015

Medical Care

Multimodality therapy is currently the most commonly accepted therapeutic approach to peritoneal mesothelioma. This includes using the combination of surgical cytoreduction, intraperitoneal perioperative chemotherapy, and hyperthermia. Intraperitoneal chemotherapy greatly enhances drug concentrations in the peritoneal cavity and decreases its systemic toxicity. See the videos below.

Dr. Oliver Zivanovic, MD, PhD, discusses the role of hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy in ovarian cancer. Courtesy of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Dr. Oliver Zivanovic, MD, PhD, demonstrates hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. Courtesy of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

In addition to the intraoperative use of heated chemotherapeutic drugs such as cisplatin, mitomycin, or doxorubicin, newer techniques include adding immunotherapeutic agents such as interleukins and interferons. While the median survival with traditional therapeutic options ranges between 4 and 12 months, the application of multimodality therapy has shown promising results with increased survival approaching 60 months.[13]

For patients with unresectable or recurrent malignant mesothelioma, palliative systemic chemotherapy (with different regimens such as cisplatin plus pemetrexed) should be considered. Other antineoplastic agents that may be used include cisplatin plus paclitaxel or mitomycin, doxorubicin, and irinotecan. Furthermore, intraperitoneal instillation of radioactive colloidal gold (Au 198) has been reported to improve symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma.

Primary peritoneal carcinoma is treated similarly to ovarian cancer, with cytoreduction and chemotherapy. Multimodality treatment consisting of tumor debulking followed by chemotherapy regimens based on 5-fluorouracil, doxorubicin, or cisplatin has been shown to have high response rate and improvement of median survival. Furthermore, the use of newer antineoplastic agents such as taxanes, topoisomerase I inhibitors, gemcitabine, and vinorelbine, alone or in combinations (eg, gemcitabine/cisplatin, irinotecan/cisplatin, docetaxel/gemcitabine, gemcitabine/carboplatin) has increased median survival to 8-11 months. In addition to the use of chemotherapeutic agents, recent studies have shown some benefit of antiangiogenic drugs such as bevacizumab and erlotinib.

It is generally accepted that all patients with good performance status should be considered for a trial of empiric chemotherapy, preferably with a regimen containing newer drugs. The combination of paclitaxel and carboplatin is a reasonable first-line therapy with possible benefit from adding a third agent (etoposide or gemcitabine). Supportive measures should be considered in patients with poor performance status.


Surgical Care

See the list below:

  • Treatment of primary peritoneal carcinoma consists of total abdominal hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy as needed, with debulking of tumor and follow-up chemotherapy.
  • Treatment of malignant peritoneal mesothelioma consists primarily of surgical palliation. Complete surgical resection is rarely, if ever, feasible and has not been shown to afford a survival benefit in the absence of additional therapy. If laparoscopy is used to help make the initial diagnosis, confine port sites to the abdominal midline because port site recurrence has been described, requiring extensive abdominal wall resection. [14]
  • Benign cystic mesothelioma tends to recur even with aggressive surgical removal; however, among recorded cases, no deaths have been attributable to this disorder.
  • Iin patients with desmoplastic small cell tumors, the combination of aggressive surgical debulking and systemic chemotherapy with cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and vincristine interspersed with ifosfamide, etoposide, and mesna (P6 protocol) appears to lead to an improved outcome. However, surgical excision is recommended only for nonmetastatic disease. [15]
  • Treatment of peritoneal and GI hemangiomas has involved surgical removal.
Contributor Information and Disclosures

Wissam Bleibel, MD Staff Physician, Department of Internal Medicine, Caritas Carney Hospital / Tufts University School of Medicine

Wissam Bleibel, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Sarah K May, MD Consulting Staff, Department of Hematology-Oncology, Caritas Carney Hospital, Commonwealth Hematology-Oncology PC

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Olga Kozyreva, MD Attending Physician, Division of Hematology-Oncology, St Elizabeth's Medical Center; Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Asif Mahmood, MD Research Associate, Medical College of Virginia Cancer Center

Asif Mahmood, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Society of Hospital Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Benjamin Movsas, MD 

Benjamin Movsas, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Radiology, American Radium Society, American Society for Radiation Oncology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS Harold J Wanebo Professor of Surgery, Assistant Dean of Clinical Affairs, Boston University School of Medicine; Chairman, Department of Surgery, Director, Adele R Decof Cancer Center, Roger Williams Medical Center

N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Association for Cancer Research, American College of Surgeons, American Medical Association, American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Americas Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association, Association for Academic Surgery, Central Surgical Association, Chicago Medical Society, International Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association, Pancreas Club, Sigma Xi, Society for Leukocyte Biology, Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract, Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons, Society of Surgical Oncology, Society of University Surgeons, Southeastern Surgical Congress, Southern Medical Association, Surgical Infection Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Robert C Shepard, MD, FACP Associate Professor of Medicine in Hematology and Oncology at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Vice President of Scientific Affairs, Therapeutic Expertise, Oncology, at PRA International

Robert C Shepard, MD, FACP is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for Cancer Research, American Association for Physician Leadership, European Society for Medical Oncology, Association of Clinical Research Professionals, American Federation for Clinical Research, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group, Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, American Medical Informatics Association, American College of Physicians, American Federation for Medical Research, American Medical Association, American Society of Hematology, Massachusetts Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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Dr. Oliver Zivanovic, MD, PhD, discusses the role of hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy in ovarian cancer. Courtesy of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Dr. Oliver Zivanovic, MD, PhD, demonstrates hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy for ovarian cancer. Courtesy of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
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