Hyperthermia or Thermal Therapy is deliberate heating of the whole body or parts of the body for therapeutic purposes. It has in recent years received increasing attention as an adjunct to cancer treatment. Systemic or Whole Body Hyperthermia for cancer and other systemic diseases is now carried out at several university hospital centers in the United States and Europe.
A variety of studies have shown, some of them even provided strong evidence, that systemic hyperthermia can induce:
- Maturation of Dendritic Cells (3).
- Dendritic cells to cross-present antigens to CD8þ T cells (4).
- Prolonged activation of human T-cells (5).
- Activation of Monocytes and Macrophages (6).
- Release of Tumor Necrosis Factor a (TNFa) (6).
- Increase of T-Lymphocytes and Natural Killer Cells (NK Cells) (4,7,8).
- Stimulate the Innate Immune System (4).
In addition, under the influence of heat, tumor cells will form “heat shock proteins”, effective identifiers of non-healthy cells that appear on the surface of the degenerated cells. The body’s immune system detects these proteins as extraneous cells, triggering its immune cells to fight the cancer cells.
Thus systemic hyperthermia is now widely accepted as an effective, nontoxic adjuvant to immunotherapy as well as standard cancer therapies.
History on the Use of Hyperthermia
The use of heat to treat disease goes back to ancient times. Ancient Greek physicians recognized the therapeutic value of fever. In the nineteenth century several German physicians observed regression or cure of sarcomas in patients who suffered prolonged high fevers due to infectious diseases. Nineteenth century New York physician, William Coley, achieved cancer cures by administration of bacterial endotoxins, now known as Coley’s Mixed Bacterial Vaccine, and attempted to create standardized preparations of these pyrogens (1).
Since 1951, Josef M. Issels, MD, the founder of our Integrative Oncology programs, consistently administered fever therapy to thousands of his cancer patients with remarkable results. He trained his followers in this treatment and our present team of doctors have extensive experience in administering fever therapy for qualified patients. It is always integrated into our immunobiological core treatment.
Additional Information on Medical Hyperthermia Treatment
Apart from the induction of biological fever by pathogens or toxins, all methods of hyperthermia involve transfer of heat into the body from an external energy source. Different types of energy may be used to apply heat including microwave, radio frequency and ultrasound.
It was in the first decades of the twentieth century that the biological effects of elevated body temperature were better understood and numerous devices were developed to apply therapeutic heat to the whole body. After a shift in focus to local and regional hyperthermia (which treat only a specific tissue, limb or body region), there is now growing interest in systemic hyperthermia in view of its advantages.
The goal of systemic hyperthermia is to reproduce the beneficial effects of fever (2). Typically, core body temperatures of 40-41 Celsius are induced for 1-2 hours, or alternatively 39-40 Celsius for 4-8 hours.
By the application of heat to the whole body, systemic hyperthermia is designed to treat systemic disease conditions including cancer. Tumors have a higher thermal sensitivity than normal tissues because of abnormal vasculature, anaerobic metabolism (acidosis) and nutrient depletion.
Our patients who are eligible for this treatment have the option to receive fever treatment in the form of Coley’s Mixed Bacterial Vaccine or systemic hyperthermia in the form of the following specialized technique. Blood is extracted in a constant flow and heated while it also flows through an ozonification and ultraviolet light device. Before the hyper-oxygenated heated blood is returned to the body, it passes through a detoxification filter to be cleansed of toxins and cellular debris. Throughout this procedure the patient is continually monitored by trained staff and by the device.
Nauts HC. Bacterial pyrogens: beneficial effects on cancer patients. In: Gautherie M, Albert E, editors. Biomedical Thermology, Progress in Clinical Biological Research. New York:Alan R. Liss; 1982. p 687-696.
Issels RD, Wilmanns W, editors. Recent Results in Cancer Research, Vol. 107: Application of Hyperthermia in the Treatment of Cancer.Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer Verlag; 1988.
Ostberg JR, Repasky EA. Emerging evidence indicates that
physiologically relevant thermal stress regulates dendritic cell function. Cancer Immunol Immunother [Epub ahead of print]; Apr 28, 2005.
Manjili MH, et al. Subjeck, Cancer immunotherapy: stress proteins and hyperthermia. Int J Hyperthermia 2002;18(6): 506-520.
Atanackovic D, et al. 41.8 degrees C whole body hyperthermia as an adjunct to chemotherapy induces prolonged T cell activation in patients with various malignant diseases. Cancer Immunol Immunother Epub 2002 Oct 18 2002;51(11-12):603.
Barni S, et al. Lysosomal exocytosis induced by hyperthermia:
a new model of cancer death. III. effect on liver metastasis. Biomed Pharmacother 1996;50:79-84.
Burd R, et al. Tumor cell apoptosis, lymphocyte recruitment and tumor vascular changes are induced by low temperature, long duration (fever-like) whole body hyperthermia. J Cell Physiol 1998;177(1):137-147.
Shen RN, et al. Whole-body hyperthermia decreases lung metastases in lung tumor-bearing mice, possibly via a mechanism involving natural killer cells. J Clin Immunol.