What is Hyperthermia?
Hyperthermia is the use of heat as a treatment for cancer. It may be used as either an all-over-body treatment, or as a localised treatment where it may also be called Ablation, or Ablatherm. The rationale for this alternative cancer treatment is that heat is known to be one of the few things that can actually kill a cancer cell. No harm is done to surrounding healthy tissue.
Hyperthermia as a concept is far from new. Early studies noted that some cancer patients went into remission when they developed a fever; this led to the controlled use of dead bacteria (e.g. Coley´s Toxins) where the induced fever was shown to stimulate defences, whilst the heat effect killed the cancer cells. Nowadays, in the various forms of hyperthermia, heat can be provided in controlled conditions to the whole body, or even by foods such as chilli peppers according to a recent report from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas!!
Or it can be created locally (depending upon the actual treatment programme) by a variety of methods from electrodes or ultrasound, with or without a helping agent.
In this section you can read the background to hyperthermia treatment, in an article entitled ´Some Like it Hot´ (CLICK HERE).
You can also read about the pioneering work of Dr John Holt in Australia (CLICK HERE).
Increasingly Proven Treatments
Importantly, you can also read about HIFU - High Intensity Focussed Ultrasound - which is hyperthermia induced by sound waves. It is used as an alternative to surgery in the treatment of some kidney cancers and bone cancers, but the exciting development is its use by numerous centres (including UCL in London and MD Anderson in America), as an alternative cancer treatment for prostate cancer. Unlike surgery, the side effects are minimal. This work is only just being established in the UK; at CANCERactive, uniquely in the UK amongst cancer charities, we have been championing it and providing research information and detailed briefings since 2003.
To read about HIFU CLICK HERE; to read an exclusive interview with Professor Mark Emberton on the use of HIFU as an alternative to prostate cancer surgery CLICK HERE.
In late 2011 more great news came with a report of three studies from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Over 80 women had been successfully treated using Ablation - this time, a ten minute localised treatment involving the application of electrodes around solid breast cancer tumours, under local anaesthetic. All the women had had no recurrence in the following two years. To find out more CLICK HERE.
This work is vitally important, not least because there is a growing body of evidence that old-fashioned surgery can spread cancer. (See ´Can Surgery Spread Cancer?´ by CLICKING HERE.)
Localised hyperthermia is already used to treat other cancers in UK hospitals (although not as extensively as its use in America). For example Professor Andy Adam at Guys and St Thomas´ Hospital. who uses it on kidney tumours. The technique is only used when surgery cannot be used, since in wonderful "catch 22" fashion, there are quite large numbers of kidney surgeries and hence data on survival rates, but little knowledge of survival for ablation.
Ablatherm is in its early days, but the work of Professor Emberton with prostate cancer, Andy Adam with kidney cancer and The Karolinska with breast cancer show the true potential of these genuine alternative cancer therapies.
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