Hamilton surgeon offers rare hot chemotherapy treatment


Braemar’s Dr. Simione Lolohea was recently profiled in the Waikato Times.

To read the Stuff article online, Click here.


Stuff.co.nz online
By Donna-Lee Biddle, Fairfax NZ

DoctorDr Simione Lolohea received a Royal Order of the Crown of Tonga Commander Award in July, for his services to Tonga.

A Hamilton surgeon is offering cancer patients a fighting chance at life, with the alternative being a series of palliative treatment.

Tongan-born Simione Lolohea is one of only two doctors in New Zealand to offer the controversial cancer treatment – hot chemotherapy.

The treatment involves chemotherapy that is heated to 42 degrees Celsius, which is then used to flush out cancers that the surgeon is not able to remove during surgery.

“Basically, it’s cancer that has spread inside the abdomen area, and normally for those cancers there’s no other treatments. You just have palliative chemotherapy,” said Lolohea.

“There’s no chance of a cure.”

Braemar Hospital chief executive Paul Bennett, said his hospital is the only private facility in the country to offer this treatment.

Bennett said the hospital started offering the service in 2009 and see between four and five patients a year.

The surgery takes between six and 17 hours, with Lolohea having also trained a second surgeon in the Waikato.

The 48-year-old man came to New Zealand from Tonga 30 years ago.

And Lolohea recently received a Royal Order of the Crown of Tonga Commander Award, for his services to Tonga.

“I go back to Tonga twice a year and I help out in the hospital and train [medical staff] there,” he said.

“I lived in small village called Ofu on Nava’u.

“We didn’t have much growing up, we didn’t live in poverty or anything. But we lived a simple life,” said Lolohea.

Lolohea’s achievements in the medical profession are impressive, and even more so when you consider his options as a young man.

“In my village, you either become a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher or an accountant,” he said.

“So I picked a doctor. No real reason, just thought it would be a good job.”

Lolohea’s father passed away during his last year at medical school. The loss gave him an extra incentive to carry on and complete his studies.

“My English was not very good when I arrived [in New Zealand] so the exams at medical school were difficult, but I got through,” he said.

“In my first year as a doctor, I saved and saved and saved to get my family here.

“I brought them all over from Tonga, my mum, and siblings, everybody.”

Lolohea said seeing his patients’ health improve and the learning more about how his work can help people keep him motivated and interested in the medical profession.

“I learn more from my patients than they do from me. That’s why I am still here.”



Imagery by Donna-Lee Biddle