Isolated limb infusion (ILI) is a minimally invasive catheter-based surgical technique used to cure or control advanced melanoma or soft tissue sarcoma of the extremity. ILI may be used to prevent amputation and achieve limb salvage.  During ILI, high doses of chemotherapy medications are injected into an artery or vein within the affected limb while the blood is temporarily stopped with a tourniquet. This allows for large doses of chemotherapy to be administered to the limb without affecting the rest of the body. ILI is preferred to other methods of treatment because it helps avoid amputation of the cancerous limb and offers a reasonable chance of long-term disease control and possibly cure, even when the disease to the affected limb is extensive.

ILI is offered at only a handful of cancer centers in the United States. It is reported that approximately 2/3 of patients will have a significant benefit from the treatment with shrinkage of the tumor. These responses are often good compared to other available treatment options and avoid systemic toxicity seen with conventional chemotherapy.   ILI is an excellent option for those with limited treatment options, or those confronted with possible amputation of the cancer affected limb.

Dr. James M. Lewis a surgical oncologist at the Cancer Institute, performs the ILI procedures at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. He was trained in isolated limb infusion at Moffitt Cancer Center in Florida.

The Office of Clinical Trials is currently enrolling patients into an ILI study for those with melanoma in a limb. For more information on this study, please contact the Clinical Trials Department at 865.305.9773.