Can metastatic cancer be controlled long term or even eliminated?

Research conducted by physicians at the UChicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center and elsewhere has confirmed that some people with oligometastatic cancer — an early state of metastatic cancer — can be controlled long term or even eliminated with aggressive therapy. This includes localized therapy such as radiation and surgery as well as systemic therapy like chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

For example, our cancer experts found that long term survival was achieved in about 30% of colorectal patients with liver metastases following a liver resection, chemotherapy and treatment of primary colorectal tumors.

Researchers at UChicago Medicine also co-authored a seminal study that established the safety of stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for patients with limited metastases. Of the 61 patients enrolled, one-year progression-free survival rate was 33% and the two-year progression-free survival rate was 22%.

Which treatments are used with the intent to control and/or eliminate metastatic cancer?

If you have metastatic cancer, you may benefit from a variety of therapies.

Following are just some of the promising treatments available through the Limited Metastatic Cancer Program for treating metastatic cancer.

This highly advanced radiation treatment uses image-guided techniques to target high doses of radiation to metastatic tumors with extreme precision. This approach helps to reduce radiation exposure to healthy tissue. Our radiation oncologists pioneered the use of image- and biology-guided SBRT to treat patients with oligometastatic disease. A national Phase I trial led by our cancer team found SBRT was safe for patients with three to four metastases or two metastases in close proximity.

In most cases, SBRT for metastatic cancer only requires patients to come to a UChicago Medicine radiation oncology location a few times for treatment, and they are able to go home the same day.
Our surgical oncologists offer a range of novel surgical approaches and techniques, including minimally invasive and robotic surgery, to remove metastatic tumors in the breast, colon, prostate, liver, brain, lung, appendix and other areas of the body.
HIPEC is an advanced surgical procedure used to treat metastatic cancer in the abdomen and is only available at select hospitals. After using a technique called cytoreductive surgery to remove all visible tumors, a cancer surgeon will apply heated chemotherapy inside the abdomen to combat any cancer that may remain. UChicago Medicine offers one of the world’s best-known and highest-volume HIPEC programs, and is leading groundbreaking research to expand treatment options for patients with intra-abdominal spread of cancer. The program has pioneered the use of iterative HIPEC, whereby patients with previously unresectable cancers are treated with an approach of repetitively placing chemotherapy in the abdomen through small incisions during outpatient or short-stay procedures. 
For patients with metastatic cancer, chemotherapy is often combined with radiation or surgery to attack cancer cells throughout the body. At UChicago Medicine, our medical oncologists can design a personalized chemotherapy regimen designed to work in concert with your other treatments for the best possible outcomes. We also offer many promising chemotherapy agents through our clinical trials.
Immunotherapies are innovative medications designed to harness the power of your body’s immune system to fight cancer. Experts in our Limited Metastatic Cancer Program have demonstrated that immunotherapy combined with SBRT can improve overall survival and quality of life in patients with advanced metastatic cancer in selected patients .
These powerful drugs “target” differences in a cell to fight cancer. For example, certain drugs can target melanoma cells with mutations in the BRAF gene. Other drugs can target abnormalities in the EGFR, ALK and ROS1 genes to treat lung cancer. 

What can I expect when I come to UChicago Medicine for metastatic cancer treatment?

Our intake coordinator will work with you and your referring physician to gather your medical records and test results before your first meeting with physicians in our Limited Metastatic Cancer Program. Then, you will meet with a team of expert physicians specializing in your type of cancer.

Together, we will determine if you need additional imaging or biopsies to get genetic information on your tumors. Then, we will work with you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan designed to achieve the best possible outcomes based on your situation. Depending on your disease, one specialty — radiation oncology, medical oncology or surgery — will likely take the lead in your treatment and guide you through the next steps.

Can I still have chemotherapy and radiation treatments close to home?

Cancer patients come to the UChicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center because we are experts in designing personalized chemotherapy and radiation treatment plans for people with metastatic cancer. For your convenience, we offer chemotherapy at a variety of locations in Chicago and the suburbs. Radiation treatment is also available across our various care sites.

However, if you prefer to receive chemotherapy at an infusion center close to home, we can help you find another location for chemotherapy care. Your chemotherapy plan will be overseen by physicians at UChicago Medicine and coordinated with your local medical oncologist.

The exception to this would be if you choose to participate in a clinical trial at UChicago Medicine. Clinical trials give you access to the most advanced metastatic cancer treatments at UChicago Medicine before they become widely available.

Will insurance cover my treatment?

In most cases, insurance plans cover aggressive treatment for metastatic cancer. However, each plan is different. If you have questions, our dedicated financial team is available to help you navigate the process.

What if my metastatic cancer cannot be treated with the intent to eliminate the disease?

Not everyone with metastatic cancer is a candidate for treatment with the intent to achieve a disease-free state. You may not benefit from this type of treatment approach if you have advanced metastatic cancer. Or you may have other health conditions that make it difficult for you to tolerate aggressive treatment. In such cases, our team can still offer a variety of treatments that can lead to prolonged survival, provide comfort and meet your personal goals. 

Convenient Locations for Cancer Care

Request an Appointment

This secure form to request an appointment will enable us to assist you as efficiently as possible. A representative will contact you within one to two business days to help you schedule an appointment.

You may also request an appointment by calling our cancer scheduling team at 855-702-8222.

If you have symptoms of an urgent nature, please call your doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.


For Referring Physicians

To refer a patient to the Limited Metastatic Cancer Program, please call 855-702-8222.

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Limited Metastatic Cancer Program (L-MEC)