More than 50 percent of patients with colorectal cancer will develop liver metastases, and while the standard treatment is liver surgery, only one third of patients are candidates. Now a new protocol is opening the door for another option.
Carole Motycka loves hiking and traveling with her four sons and husband. But when she went to the ER for shoulder pain, the doctor found something else.
“And he said I believe your liver is full of tumors. He said in my right lobe there were just too many to count,” Motycka said.
Motycka was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer that had spread to her liver. Doctors had to install a pump that delivered chemo straight to the liver.
“The side effects of this pump, that can kill the cancer, but can also cause some damage to the biliary tree,” Cristiano Quintini, M.D., said director of the Liver Transplant Program at Cleveland Clinic. “And as a result Carole developed liver failure.”
Cleveland clinic researchers have developed a new protocol to treat liver metastases. For the first time, patients with this condition can receive a transplant.
“There’s a huge survival advantage by adding liver transplantation as a treatment option for those patients,” Dr. Quintini said.
Motycka’s church put a note in the bulletin about her need for a donor and like a miracle, Jason Stechschulte, a man from church she barely knew, offered up part of his liver.
“Carole usually sits with her family right over there,” Stechschulte said.
“I didn’t know that I would get to see Drew graduate from high school, but I get that opportunity now, because of what Jason has given to me,” Motycka said.
Both recovered quickly, and Stechschulte is back doing what he loves.
Stechschulte shared, “Everything’s back to normal, but now somebody else gets that chance to also be perfectly fine and be normal again.”
Motycka and Stechschulte’s families are now great friends. The results of a study from Norway showed that liver transplantation helped colorectal cancer patients with liver metastases who were not candidates for liver surgery achieve a five-year survival rate of 60 percent.
Dr. Quintini said that about 25 percent of the patients that are placed on the liver transplant waiting list around the country die without ever being offered an organ.