HYPERTHERMIA RESEARCH INFORMATION
There are two ways to do heat therapy.
It has been known for many centuries that heat helps the body against cancer. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm of modern cancer research for this modality has been sporadic until recently. It has been the alternative health community that has kept the access open for patients, particularly in other countries. In the 1960s, some researchers confirmed that cancer cells are more vulnerable to heat than their normal counterparts. In the U.S., the hegemony of the three official modalities -- surgery, radiation and chemo -- lasted until the 70s, when hyperthermia was taken off the ACS blacklist (Unproven Therapies List). In late 70s and early 80s several trials had shown that hyperthermia combined with radiation produced superior results over radiation alone. However, a U.S. phase III trial subsequently did not confirm these results, and interest waned. Hyperthermia has since inhabited a strange in-between land of having its value recognized, and being used sporadically in some cancer centers, while ignored or underutilized by most oncologists around the country, and largely unknown to the public.
That situation is beginning to change. It has been admitted that the U.S. study which showed negative results in the past was flawed on account of inadequate equipment and quality assurance procedures. And recently, the results of three European and one American phase III trials have become available. All these trials were well controlled, showing that the use of hyperthermia in combination with radiation therapy results in superior tumor response, tumor control, and survival as compared with radiation therapy alone. Some studies have claimed three-fold improvement in results, and positive results have even been noted with very difficult cancers like brain, liver and advanced kidney. Hyperthermia is particularly suitable in treating small superficial tumors (within 7 cm under the surface).
Summary of benefits.
Another source claims that "in all clinical studies hyperthermia has been shown to improve local control to some extent and has never worsened it." Despite difficulties in increasing human tumor temperatures, recent clinical trials have shown that a combination of hyperthermia with radiation is superior to radiation alone in controlling many human tumors.
It is unfortunate that patients usually come to hyperthermia when other modalities have been exhausted. But even in these circumstances, hyperthermia allows re-radiating tissue that has already received the maximum dose. Rates of response in these patients is generally high (one source reports impressive 93%!). Hyperthermia is one way to overcome the radioresistance of tumor cells. It is possible to combine hyperthermia safely with further low dose radiation in situation where a radical dose has already been delivered.
In addition, there seems to be evidence that whole body hyperthermia provides a measure of protection against radiation-induced thrombocytopenia. (And experiments in mice have shown an increase in platelet count 8 days after the administration of hyperthermia. The current theory states that whole body hyperthermia induces platelet stimulating hormonal factors.)
Hyperthermia improves the therapeutic index of TBI (total body irradiation), not only by increased neoplastic cell kill, but also by inhibiting the expression of radiation induced damage to the normal cell population. Some have experimented with hyperthermia as part of BMTs. Whole body hyperthermia results in early engraftment during BMT (there is up to 4-fold increase in GM-CSF and a 15-fold increase in IL-3).
When it comes to chemotherapy, there are indications that some chemo can be potentiated by hyperthermia. This can, in some agents, increase toxicities and the incidence of damage associated with them at the usual doses, or it can be taken advantage of in the sense of getting the same results with lower doses of the drug. In combination with chemo, the type of drug, dose, temperature and time of administration all play a role. Vinca alkaloids and methotrexate exhibit only some additive cytotoxicity. AMSA and Ara-C are inhibited by higher temperatures. Doxorubicin and dactinomycin are potentiated if heat follows, but inhibited if heat precedes them. Synergistic, supra-additive effects between heat and drug have been observed in bleomycin, BCNU, cisplatin, cyclophosphamide, melphalan, mitoxantrone, mitomycin C, thiotepa, misonidazole, and 5-thi-D-glucose. Some agents not cytotoxic at normal temperature show cell killing abilities at higher temperatures: alcohols, amphotericin B, cysteine, cysteamine and AET. Drugs showing no enhancement are the antimetabolites (mixed results with 5FU and methotrexate) and taxanes.
One source says: "The increased effect seen by combining cytotoxic agents with hyperthermia is complex, but may be due to altered drug pharmakinetics such as increased solubility (e.g. nitrosureas and alkylating agents), altered plasma protein binding (e.g. cisplatinum) and activation of enzymatic processes (e.g. anthracyclines). The new agents interferon, TNF and lonidamine and some hypoxic cell sensitizers are all potentiated by heat." Hyperthermia can augment the cytotoxicity without increasing myelosuppression, and reverse drug resistance to chemo agents.
I am very excited to find out that "it has recently been recognized that hyperthermia may also provide additional advantages in regard to drug delivery, particularly when the drugs of their carriers are relatively large. It has been shown in several studies that the use of hyperthermia can enhance the delivery of monoclonal antibodies to tumors with resultant improvement in antitumor effects. The spread into tissues of liposome-carried chemo drugs increases considerably compared to that under normal temperature." And interesting information has emerged from hyperthermia studies that may become valuable in the future -- a certain heat shock protein seems to be expressed on the surface of malignant cells after hyperthermia, and is absent in normal cells. This creates the possibility that monoclonal antibodies can be designed to home in just on the malignant cells.
Hyperthermia is also an immune system enhancer, and very effective in providing pain relief, controlling bleeding, and useful in other conditions such as prostatic hypertrophy and psoriasis.
Summary of risks:
Hyperthermia should be administered to patients who are awake and can report any problems as they experience them. Analgesics can be administered if a patient has difficulty lying still for the duration of the session. Patient’s vital signs must be monitored frequently during the session. Cardiovascular disease and sometimes pace makers (dep. on the heat delivery method) are a contraindication for the treatment.
It was once believed that hyperthermia damages tumor vasculature, but more recent experiences have shown that human tumor vasculature is more resistant to damage than that of rodents -- this is good news in respect to heat treatment because the damage to vasculature would interfere with heat transfer to the tumor.
How hyperthermia works?
Heat above 41 C also pushes cancer cells toward acidosis (decreased cellular pH) which decreases the cells’ viability and transplantability.
Hyperthermia activates the immune system. One source says: "Heat has a well known stimulatory effect on the immune system causing both increased production of interferon alpha, and increased immune surveillance." Another source mentions the release of lysosomes.
Tumors have a tortuous growth of vessels feeding them blood, and these vessels are unable to dilate and dissipate heat as normal vessels do. So tumors take longer to heat, but then concentrate the heat within themselves. Tumor blood flow is increased by hyperthermia despite the fact that tumor-formed vessels do not expand in response to heat. Normal vessels are incorporated into the growing tumor mass and are able to dilate in response to heat, and to channel more blood into the tumor.
Tumor masses tend to have hypoxic (oxygen deprived) cells within the inner part of the tumor. These cells are resistant to radiation, but they are very sensitive to heat. This is why hyperthermia is an ideal companion to radiation: radiation kills the oxygenated outer cells, while hyperthermia acts on the inner low-oxygen cells, oxygenating them and so making them more susceptible to radiation damage. It is also thought that hyperthermia’s induced accumulation of proteins inhibits the malignant cells from repairing the damage sustained.
One source puts it thus: "It can be hypothesized that hypoxic cells in the center of a tumor are relatively radioresistant but thermosensitive, whereas well-vascularized peripheral portions of the tumor are more sensitive to irradiation. This supports the use of combined radiation and heat; hyperthermia is especially effective against centrally located hypoxic cells, and irradiation eliminates the tumor cells in the periphery of the tumor, where heat would be less effective."
Hyperthermia is considered a modifier of radiation response. "Heat selectively kills cells that are chronically hypoxic and nutritionally deficient and have a low pH -- characteristics shared by tumor cells in comparison with the better oxygenated and better nourished normal cells. Furthermore, heat preferentially kills cells in the S phase of the proliferative cycle, which are known to be resistant to irradiation." Another source notes that "marked complementary synergism across the cell cycle was observed when heat and radiation were combined."
As the research gains momentum, more reasons for the use of hyperthermia are continuously being identified.
How it is administered?
The number of hyperthermia treatments patients should ideally receive is still being studied. Many sources recommend 2 treatments per week, but this recommendation is based in part on the concern over thermotolerance, which may be unnecessary. Most advocate about 40 min. to an hour, within 30 min. after radiation. Some have recommended up to 25 treatments overall. Tumor regression continues for several months after treatment. Effects may be seen for up to 6 months afterwards.
Desired, uniform temperatures throughout the tumor are difficult to attain, but one source says "failure to achieve the desired temperature should not discourage the physician from the use of this ... modality as it appears to enhance radiation effects even at the lower temperatures."
Some sources recommend doing hyperthermia as soon as possible after radiation, and interest is increasing in trying simultaneous treatment for the two modalities. There is also interest in low-temperature, long-duration hyperthermia, and Myerson et al (below) say the preliminary studies have been promising.
The development of thermotolerance was noted in animal experiments and this is why it was not recommended to treat more often than twice a week. The development of thermotolerance in humans has, however, not been a problem so far. (Thermotolerance, when it does develop, begins to wear off as soon as the heat treatment stops, and does not persist.)
Response does not depend only on the energy delivered but also on the intrinsic tissue sensitivity, duration of heating, rate of heating and cooling, pH and nutrient levels, cell cycle distribution etc. There are experiments that focus on the enhancement of the beneficial effect through the addition of supplements; for example, acidification of tissues after the ingestion of glucose, or quercetin to block the formation of heat shock proteins.
The rationale in lymphoma.
There is, however, a trial going on at the University of Texas using whole body hyperthermia in combination with two chemo agents. (Viz the page on experimental therapies.)
It is interesting to note that hyperthermia is being used in some centers for prostate and breast cancer. It seems to me no coincidence that cancer patients with these cancers are the best organized and most vocal.
Why so little interest overall?
2. A 58-year-old Japanese woman with primary malignant lymphoma of the rectum was treated preoperatively with radiation and intraluminal hyperthermia, after which abdominoperineal rectal amputation (Miles' operation) was done. The rectal tumor disappeared and there were no lymphoma cells in the resected specimens. The postoperative course was smooth and she is being followed in the outpatient department. At this writing, five years after the surgery, she remains well. (Japan)
3. The effect of interferon (IFN) and tumour necrosis factor (TNF), either alone or combined with hyperthermia, on cell proliferation and expression of idiotype antigen on a murine B-cell lymphoma has been studied. Incubation with same doses of IFN-alpha and IFN-gamma reduced cell proliferation to the same extent. Hyperthermia potentiated the antiproliferative activity of IFN-alpha and IFN-gamma. (Stanford)
4. The combination of Radiation Therapy (RT) and Hyperthermia (HT) has proved to be an effective treatment for a wide variety of superficially located recurrences of different tumors, particularly those arising in previously irradiated areas. Few studies on the use of HT in the management of lymphomatous diseases have so far obtained interesting results. Eight patients with Non Hodgkin Lymphomas - 4 with cutaneous lymphomas and 4 with nodal recurrences after RT-Chemotherapy treatment treated in three different Italian institutions with combined RT and HT are here reported. Rt dose ranged from 15 to 40 Gy with different fractionations, on the basis of previously received treatment. Hyperthermia was delivered using 432 or 915 MHz external microwave applicators, according to extension and depth of the lesions and available equipment. All patients tolerated well the HT treatment, and in all cases average intratumoral temperatures were >42 degrees, with 3 out of 10 treated sites achieving the goal of average temperatures >42.5%. One patient, with recurrent NHL, is disease-free after 24 months from completion of combined therapy. Our results seem to confirm previous experiences, suggesting a role of HT/RT not only for palliative purposes in cutaneous lymphomas, but also as an adjunct to radiotherapy alone in selected patients with superficially located recurrences. (Italy)
5. A study evaluates the effects of hyperthermia on a high grade and low grade mouse lymphoma cells. The findings were that the high grade cells were more sensitive to the heat. (Israel)
6. Another study with mouse cell lines showed that when hypothermia was used alone or with adriamycin, it was more effective with metastatic tumor cells than primary tumor cells. Fluorescent microscopy and cytofluorometry showed that the increased effect of adriamycin by hyperthermia was due to an increased drug uptake at the supranormal temperature. (Israel)
7. A study examined the effect of heat on B cell lymphoma, and noted significant cell destruction at 42-43 degree Celsius. It recommends the application of hyperthermia to purging of cells prior to BMTs. (Japan)
8. Three adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma-derived cell lines, were investigated to determine how they responded to hyperthermia, lymphokine-activated killer (LAK) cells, or a combination of both in vitro. All three cell lines showed a similar sensitivity to LAK cells, but revealed varying degrees of sensitivity to hyperthermia. Hyperthermia did not cause immediate cell death, but did cause substantial decreases in the numbers of heated cells within 2 days. When the cells were heated at 39-43 degrees C for 1-3 hr and then interacted with various LAK cell/ATL cell (E/T) ratios at 37 degrees C for 4 hr, total cytolysis of the cells increased in a synergistic and/or additive manner over that of the cells without hyperthermia. This augmentation of cytolysis by LAK cells after hyperthermia was not seen in normal peripheral lymphocytes. These results suggest that the combination therapy of hyperthermia and LAK cells may be more specific, useful, and effective for treating malignant lymphoma. (Japan)
9. Another study looking at lymphoma and melanoma cells and their vulnerability to hyperthermia. Interestingly, low grade lymphoma is more resistant to heat, but low grade melanoma is less resistant. Also, the results suggest that drug resistance in late stages of tumor progression can be overcome by an agent acting on the cell membrane (e.g., hyperthermia). (Israel)
10. The results of three completed clinical studies and complementary laboratory investigations are reviewed to illustrate an innovative approach to the nodular lymphomas and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The clinical trials summarized include: A) the combination of 41.8 degrees C whole body hyperthermia (WBH) and the chemotherapeutic drug lonidamine; B) the use of total body irradiation (TBI) (12.5 cGy twice a week, every other week--total planned dose 150 cGy) and daily oral lonidamine; C) the juxtapositioning of TBI (with the same fraction schema) and 41.8 degrees C WBH x 75 min--initiated 10 min after TBI. Also presented is the laboratory rationale and early clinical results for combining lonidamine, TBI, and WBH. Abstract does not summarize results. (U. of Wisconsin Madison)
11. Hyperthermia (42 - 44 degrees C for 30 min to 1 h) can induce apoptosis in a variety of cell types and tumour cell lines. This process is usually, but not invariably unaffected by RNA and protein synthesis inhibition. C-fos expression has been implicated in the regulation of apoptosis occurring under diverse circumstances. By heating a Burkitt lymphoma cell line, for 43 degrees C for 30 min, approximately 60% of cells underwent apoptosis within 6h of treatment. (Australia)
12. Three cell line were tested to see if they can develop tolerance to heat. All three lines could develop thermotolerance, but the persistence of tolerance was less than can be measured in nonlymphoid cell lines. (Stanford)
13. Adjunctive therapy (whole body hyperthermia versus lonidamine) to total body irradiation for the treatment of favorable B-cell neoplasms: a report of two pilot clinical trials and laboratory investigations. (by H.I. Robins, et al; Address: done at University of Wisconsin Clinical Cancer Center, Madison; published in Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys, Apr 1990, vol.18, pp 909-920.)
Abstract: Based on earlier clinical and preclinical investigations, we designed two different pilot trials for patients with nodular lymphoma or chronic lymphocytic leukemia. These studies evaluated the use of either 41.8 degrees C whole body hyperthermia (WBH), or the nonmyelosuppressive chemotherapeutic drug, lonidamine (LON), as an adjunct to total body irradiation (TBI) (12.5 cGy twice a week, every other week for a planned total dose of 150 cGy). Whole body hyperthermia was initiated approximately 10 min after total body irradiation; lonidamine was administered orally (420 mg/m2) on a daily basis. Although entry to the studies was nonrandomized, the two patient populations were accrued during the same time frame and were comparable in terms of histology, stage of disease, performance status, and prior therapy. Of 8 patients entered on the TBI/WBH study, we observed 3 complete responses (CR), 4 partial responses (PR), and 1 improvement (i.e., a 48% decrease in tumor burden). Of 10 patients entered in the TBI/LON study, there was 1 CR and 4 PR. For the TBI/WBH study, myelosuppression was not treatment-limiting; there were no instances of infection or bleeding and platelet support was never required. The median survival time for the TBI/WBH study is 52.5 months based on Kaplan Meir estimates. Two patients remain in a CR. The median time to treatment failure (MTTF) is 9.4 months (90% confidence interval = 7-15.4 months). In the TBI/LON study, 50% of patients receiving TBI required treatment modification due to platelet-count depression during therapy, but there were no instances of infection or bleeding. Frequently observed LON-related toxicities included myalgias, testicular pain, photophobia and ototoxicity. For the TBI/LON study, median survival is 7.6 months; MTTF was 2.4 months. In analyzing the results of these pilot studies, our subjective clinical impressions lead to the hypothesis that WBH protected against TBI-induced thrombocytopenia during therapy, whereas LON had no effect on TBI-induced myelosuppression. This speculation was tested and confirmed in a series of in vitro and in vivo experiments.
[In brief, this study reports that the patients treated with radiation and hyperthermia had a 100% response rate, compared to a 50% response rate with radiation and chemo. And the median survival time for hyperthermia-treated patients was over 4 years, compared to about 8 months for the chemo-treated group. Pretty amazing.]
14. Therapeutic hyperthermia, Scott K. Alpard et al, Perfusion 1996, 11, 425-435.
15. Clinical experience with hyperthermia in conjunction with radiation therapy. Homayoon Shidnia et al, Oncology 1993, 50, 353-361.
16. Hyperthermic treatment of malignant diseases: current status and a view toward the future. Mark W. Dewhirst et al. Seminars in Oncology, vol. 24, no. 6 (December), 1997, 616-625. This is the best current article for those who only want to read one thing.
17. Chapter on Hyperthermia in Principles and Practice of Radiation Oncology, by Myerson, Moros and Roti Roti, Third edition, 1997.
18. Med J Australia, 1980, 1 (April), 311-313. Microwave adjuvant radiotherapy and chemotherapy for advanced lymphoma. Alan JM Nelson and John AG Holt. Abstract: "Forty patients with intractable, recurrent stage IV lymphoma were treated with application of 434 Mhz microwave radiation which were combined with small doses of cytotoxic drugs and/or supervoltage irradiation on an individual basis. Complete remission in 34 patients, and partial remission in four patients followed the treatment course; only two patients failed to improve. At the time of the writing, 50% of these patients were alive; the average survival period being 47 months. The synergistic effect of the combination of microwave irradiation with conventional therapeutic agents is discussed."
This study followed patients who were sent to the center in Perth because their tumors were no longer treatable with available strategies. The results are all the more impressive. The amounts of radiation in the study were small, ranging from 3 to 27 Gy (average, 13 Gy, given in fractionated doses.).
Short chapters on heat treatment can be found in Ralph Moss’ Cancer Therapy (1992) and in Definitive Guide to Cancer: Alternative Medicine by Diamond, Cowder, Goldberg et al (1997).
TREATMENT AND CONSULTATION FACILITIES:
A number of cancer centers have hyperthermia facilities. Do not assume that you would necessarily have to travel long distances. Your doctor or your local medical library can help you locate one.
For more information:
HI Robins, MD, PhD
Valley Cancer Institute
Duke University Cancer Center
North American Hyperthermia Society
Also, some clinics which do fever therapy:
Akbar Clinic (Panama City Clinic)
Hufeland Klinik for Holistic Immunotherapy
Veramed Klinik am Wendelstein
note: all information on this page is lay-gathered.
Research information from Vera Bradova and other online researchers involved in Hyperthermia
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