Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Heat Therapy" for cancer?

At the European Cancer Organization/ European Society of Medical Oncology joint meeting, some interesting study results came out on "heat therapy."

The study enrolled 341 patients with advanced soft tissue sarcomas. All patients received surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Half were randomized to heat treatment in addition to chemotherapy, and patients were followed for three years.

The heat treatment provides "regional hyperthermia" using "focused electromagnetic energy" to heat the tumor and surrounding tissues to 104-109.4 degrees Fahrenheit. According to this article, it works by improving blood flow to the area which allows more chemotherapy to reach the tumor. This increased blood flow also increases oxygenation to the tumor, making it more sensitive to radiation. They also report that "the heat interferes with cancer cells' repair mechanisms and they die off."

The results are pretty interesting -- finding that patients that received the heat therapy were:
  • 42% less likely to have recurrence of their cancer or die.
  • 30% less likely to experience recurrence or spread of cancer or die.
  • 30% more disease-free time (32 months in heat treatment group versus 18 months in control).
  • 66% less likely to die (when analyzing only the 269 patients that followed through on all treatments).
They say the treatment has promising findings for cervical and bladder cancers... and I would think for many others as well. 

Regional hyperthermia. Are there other ways to create this? Does it have to get as high as 104-109 degrees F to see benefits? What about the beneficial effects of a milder systemic hyperthermia?

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