Stomach Cancer Treatment

Different types for stomach cancer treatment are available for patients with gastric cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials.

Types of Stomach Cancer Treatment & Trials for Patients with Stomach cancer

Different types of treatments are available for patients with gastric cancer. Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment. Patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

Seven types of standard treatment are used

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Stomach cancer Treatment Options

Surgery is a common treatment of all stages of gastric cancer. The following types of surgery may be used:

  • Subtotal gastrectomy: Removal of the part of the stomach that contains cancer, nearby lymph nodes, and parts of other tissues and organs near the tumor. The spleen may be removed. The spleen is an organ that makes lymphocytes, stores red blood cells and lymphocytes, filters the blood, and destroys old blood cells. The spleen is on the left side of the abdomen near the stomach.
  • Total gastrectomy: Removal of the entire stomach, nearby lymph nodes, and parts of the esophagussmall intestine, and other tissues near the tumor. The spleen may be removed. The esophagus is connected to the small intestine so the patient can continue to eat and swallow.  


    If the tumor is blocking the stomach but the cancer cannot be completely removed by standard surgery, the following procedures may be used:

    • Endoluminal stent placement: A procedure to insert a stent (a thin, expandable tube) in order to keep a passage (such as arteries or the esophagus) open. For tumors blocking the passage into or out of the stomach, surgery may be done to place a stent from the esophagus to the stomach or from the stomach to the small intestine to allow the patient to eat normally.
    • Endoluminal laser therapy: A procedure in which an endoscope (a thin, lighted tube) with a laser attached is inserted into the body. A laser is an intense beam of light that can be used as a knife.
    • Gastrojejunostomy: Surgery to remove the part of the stomach with cancer that is blocking the opening into the small intestine. The stomach is connected to the jejunum (a part of the small intestine) to allow food and medicine to pass from the stomach into the small intestine.
 

Endoscopic mucosal resection is a procedure that uses an endoscope to remove early-stage cancer and precancerous growths from the lining of the digestive tract without surgery. An endoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also include tools to remove growths from the lining of the digestive tract.

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. When chemotherapy is taken by mouth or injected into a vein or muscle, the drugs enter the bloodstream and can reach cancer cells throughout the body (systemic chemotherapy). When chemotherapy is placed directly into the cerebrospinal fluid, an organ, or a body cavity such as the abdomen, the drugs mainly affect cancer cells in those areas (regional chemotherapy). The way the chemotherapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated.

A type of regional chemotherapy being studied to treat gastric cancer is intraperitoneal (IP) chemotherapy. In IP chemotherapy, the anticancer drugs are carried directly into the peritoneal cavity (the space that contains the abdominal organs) through a thin tube.

Hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) is a treatment used during surgery that is being studied for gastric cancer. After the surgeon has removed as much tumor tissue as possible, warmed chemotherapy is sent directly into the peritoneal cavity.

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy:

The way the radiation therapy is given depends on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. External radiation therapy is used to treat gastric cancer.

Chemoradiation therapy combines chemotherapy and radiation therapy to increase the effects of both. Chemoradiation given after surgery, to lower the risk that the cancer will come back, is called adjuvant therapy. Chemoradiation given before surgery, to shrink the tumor (neoadjuvant therapy), is being studied.

Targeted therapy is a type of treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Monoclonal antibodies and multikinase inhibitors are types of targeted therapy used in the treatment of gastric cancer.

  • Monoclonal antibody therapy: This type of therapy uses antibodies made in the laboratory from a single type of immune system cell. These antibodies can identify substances on cancer cells or normal substances that may help cancer cells grow. The antibodies attach to the substances and kill the cancer cells, block their growth, or keep them from spreading. Monoclonal antibodies are given by infusion. They may be used alone or to carry drugs, toxins, or radioactive material directly to cancer cells.

    There are different types of monoclonal antibody drugs:

  • Multikinase inhibitors: These are small-molecule drugs that go through the cell membrane and work inside cancer cells to block multiple protein signals that cancer cells need to grow and divide. Some multikinase inhibitors also have angiogenesis inhibitor effects. Angiogenesis inhibitors stop the growth of new blood vessels that tumors need to grow.

    There are different types of multikinase inhibitor drugs:

    • Regorafenib is a multikinase inhibitor and angiogenesis inhibitor that blocks the effects of the multiple proteins inside tumor cells. Regorafenib is being studied in the treatment of stage IV gastric cancer and gastric cancer that cannot be removed by surgery or has recurred.

Immunotherapy is a treatment that uses the patient’s immune system to fight cancer. Substances made by the body or made in a laboratory are used to boost, direct, or restore the body’s natural defenses against cancer. This type of cancer treatment is also called biotherapy or biologic therapy.

Immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy is a type of immunotherapy.

  • Immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy: PD-1 is a protein on the surface of T cells that helps keep the body’s immune responses in check. When PD-1 attaches to another protein called PDL-1 on a cancer cell, it stops the T cell from killing the cancer cell. PD-1 inhibitors attach to PDL-1 and allow the T cells to kill cancer cells. Pembrolizumab is a type of immune checkpoint inhibitor. Immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. This animation explains one type of immunotherapy that uses immune checkpoint inhibitors to treat cancer.

The information contained on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, you should always consult a qualified healthcare professional.  Cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabis plant constituents should not be used as a substitute for conventional medical care. CBD and other cannabis plant constituents may interfere with medical treatment.

 Gastric Cancer Treatment“ (PDQ®)–Patient Version was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.”

PDQ® Adult Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Gastric Cancer Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <06/05/2019>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/stomach/patient/stomach-treatment-pdq. Accessed <12/12/2019>. [PMID: 26389328]