Background. Hyperthermic isolated hepatic perfusion (IHP) has been shown to cause significant regression of advanced unresectable liver metastases in patients. Although there are different agents and treatment modalities used in IHP, the contribution of perfusion hyperthermia is unknown. Purpose. A large animal model of unresectable liver metastases and a technical standard for IHP in this model were established. This model was used to assess the effects of hyperthermia on vascular permeability of tumors and normal liver tissue during IHP. Methods. Sixty-five New Zealand White rabbits were used in a series of experiments. Disseminated liver tumors were established by direct injection of 1 x 106 VX-2 cells into the portal vein by laparotomy in anesthetized animals. Several surgical perfusion techniques were explored to determine a reliable and reproducible IHP model. Vascular permeability in tumor versus liver was then assessed with Evan's Blue labeled bovine albumin under normothermic (tissue temperature 36.5°C ± 0.5°C), moderate hyperthermic (39°C ± 0.5°C), or severe hyperthermic (41°C ± 0.5°C) conditions. Results. Tumor model and perfusion techniques were successfully established with inflow through the portal vein and outflow through an isolated segment of the inferior vena cava. A gravity driven perfusion circuit with stable perfusion parameters and complete vascular isolation was used. Vascular permeability was higher in tumor than in normal tissues (P = .03) at all time points during IHP. Hyperthermia resulted in a significant (up to 5-fold) increase in permeability of neovasculature; when severe hyperthermia was used, tumor vascular permeability was increased even more than normal liver permeability (P =.01). Conclusions. The VX-2/New Zealand White rabbit system can be used as a reproducible large-animal model for IHP of unresectable liver metastases. It can be used to characterize the contribution and mechanism of action of different treatment parameters used in IHP. Hyperthermia preferentially increases vascular permeability in tumors compared with liver tissue in a dose-dependent fashion, thus providing a mechanism for its presumed benefit during isolated organ perfusion.
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