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Evidence Based Data

Hyperthermia

You may have heard of the condition Hyperthermia, when the body reaches an abnormally high body temperature caused by a failure of the heat-regulating mechanisms of the body to deal with the heat coming from the environment – essentially overheating. 

But did you know that hyperthermia is also a safe, effective medical treatment that is used for pain relief, to treat infections, for diagnostics and lab testing, and, yes, cancer care?

Essentially hyperthermia, the treatment, works in a similar way to hyperthermia, the condition, although of course in a safe and controlled way by using high heat to target abnormal cells and pathogens. 

This can be done by applying heat to a small area, such as a tumor site, which is known as Local Hyperthermia.

Or by raising the body temperature in general, which is called Whole-Body Hyperthermia

The treatment can also be used on larger areas, often at a lower heat, such as an organ, limb, or hollow space inside the body in a process known as Regional Hyperthermia.

 

How Does Hyperthermia Kill Cancer?

Cancerous tissues are extremely susceptible to heat. Heat can destroy cell membranes, effectively killing the cell. Heat also changes the tumors’ microenvironment, making them more vulnerable to agents like high dosage Vitamin C.

 

Research has shown that high temperatures can damage and kill cancer cells, usually with zero or minimal injury to normal tissues. Clinical trials have been going on for almost a decade with very promising results. Hyperthermia is also FDA-approved to treat cancer. 

Whole Body Hyperthermia, A Simple Breakdown:

Hyperthermia

  • The patient lies down in a hyperthermia machine – which is a dome-shaped bed.
  • The patient’s head is kept outside the chamber, protecting it from the heat, and oxygen is delivered to the patient through a nasal cannula. 
  • The machine is set to a temperature that will raise the patient’s body heat to simulate a fever. (Usually between 102º-104º Fahrenheit).
  • When the fever is simulated, the natural immune response kicks in and activates.
  • This protocol is usually done every other day in conjunction with other protocols, depending on the patient and what the doctor prescribes.

 

Local Hyperthermia, A Simple Breakdown:

 

Local Hyperthermia (Oncotherm)-min

Local Hyperthermia functions similarly to whole-body hyperthermia, but instead of lying down in a machine, heat is applied to a small area, such as a tumor. The heat can be applied using different types of energy.

Local hyperthermia can be done in three different ways:

  • Externally: This method is used to treat tumors that are in or just below the skin by placing applicators around or near the tumor region. It focuses on the tumor itself and emits energy to raise its temperature.
  • Intraluminal or Endocavitary: These approaches are used to treat tumors within or near body cavities, such as the esophagus or rectum. Probes are placed inside the cavity and inserted directly into the tumor to deliver energy and heat the area.
  • Interstitially: This method is used to treat tumors deep within the body, such as brain tumors. This process allows the tumor to be heated to higher temperatures than external techniques and is done under anesthesia as probes or needles are inserted into the tumor.

Regional Hyperthermia, A Simple Breakdown: 

Regional hyperthermia uses low heat on larger areas, such as an organ or limb or a hollow space inside the body. For this type of treatment, the patient is generally positioned on the treatment table and the specific area targeted for hyperthermia is identified. 

Heat is then delivered using one of several methods, including: 

  • Applicators are placed on the surface of the body focusing energy on a cancer inside the body, such as in the case of cervical or bladder cancer
  • A portion of the patient’s blood is removed, heated, and then returned back to the limb or organ. This method treats melanoma on the arms and legs, as well as lung or liver cancer.
  • Doctors heat chemotherapy drugs and pump them into the area around the organs in the patient’s stomach, for example

 

Hyperthermia in Conjunction with Conventional Treatments

Hyperthermia can be combined with conventional treatments such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Hyperthermia may make some cancer cells more sensitive to radiation or harm other cancer cells that radiation itself cannot damage.

When Hyperthermia and radiation therapy are combined, they are often given within an hour of each other. Hyperthermia can also enhance the effects of certain anticancer drugs.

Did You Know?

  • Hyperthermia as a method of treating cancer has a long history. The first known use of heat treatment was carried out in Egypt around 1700 B.C. for the treatment of breast cancer!

 

  • The first paper on hyperthermia was published in 1866 by a German surgeon named Carl D. W. Busch, and throughout the next half-century, accounts from doctors across Europe showed great success in treating their cancer patients with heat treatments.
    After 1950, the modern period of hyperthermia development as a treatment had taken off, and the rest, as they say, is history.


    Thousands of patients around the world have benefitted from hyperthermia treatments in their fight against cancer.

Side Effects of Hyperthermia Treatment 

The use of hyperthermia in cancer treatment, while generally considered safe when administered by trained healthcare professionals, may be associated with certain side effects. The severity and nature of these side effects can vary depending on the type of hyperthermia used, the treatment duration, and individual patient factors. 

Possible side effects include: 

  • skin burns
  • discomfort and pain
  • fatigue and weakness
  • dehydration
  • nausea and vomiting:
  • changes in blood pressure and heart rate

 

Hyperthermia use for bladder cancer
News story about using hyperthermia as a treatment for breast cancer.
Hyperthermia and its use in treating cancer

Hyperthermia- Relevant Research and News

Heating the patient: a promising approach?

There is a clear rationale for using hyperthermia in cancer treatment. Treatment at temperatures between 40 and 44 degrees C is cytotoxic for cells in an environment with a low pO(2) and low pH, conditions that are found specifically within tumour tissue, due to insufficient blood perfusion. Under such conditions radiotherapy is less effective, and systemically applied cytotoxic agents will reach such areas in lower concentrations than in well perfused areas. Therefore, the addition of hyperthermia to radiotherapy or chemotherapy will result in at least an additive effect. Furthermore, the effects of both radiotherapy and many drugs are enhanced at an increased temperature. Hyperthermia can be applied by several methods: local hyperthermia by external or internal energy sources, regional hyperthermia by perfusion of organs or limbs, or by irrigation of body cavities, and whole body hyperthermia. The use of hyperthermia alone has resulted in complete overall response rates of 13%. The clinical value of hyperthermia in addition to other treatment modalities has been shown in randomised trials. Significant improvement in clinical outcome has been demonstrated for tumours of the head and neck, breast, brain, bladder, cervix, rectum, lung, oesophagus, vulva and vagina, and also for melanoma. Additional hyperthermia resulted in remarkably higher (complete) response rates, accompanied by improved local tumour control rates, better palliative effects and/or better overall survival rates. Generally, when combined with radiotherapy, no increase in radiation toxicity could be demonstrated. Whether toxicity from chemotherapy is enhanced depends on sequence of the two modalities, and on which tissues are heated. Toxicity from hyperthermia cannot always be avoided, but is usually of limited clinical relevance. Recent developments include improvements in heating techniques and thermometry, development of hyperthermia treatment planning models, studies on heat shock proteins and an effect on anti-cancer immune responses, drug targeting to tumours, bone marrow purging, combination with drugs targeting tumour vasculature, and the role of hyperthermia in gene therapy. The clinical results achieved to date have confirmed the expectations raised by results from experimental studies. These findings justify using hyperthermia as part of standard treatment in tumour sites for which its efficacy has been proven and, furthermore, to initiate new studies with other tumours. Hyperthermia is certainly a promising approach and deserves more attention than it has received until now.

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