More Information on Hyperthermia
What is hyperthermia?
Hyperthermia means: elevated temperature. And that is exactly what happens with treatment with hyperthermia. The patient’s body is artificially heated locally or in its entirety from the outside.
More than a century ago, it was discovered that fever made some tumors disappear. Cancer cells can not withstand a high temperature: they die or are affected by it. This makes them extra sensitive to, for example, chemotherapy or radiation (radiotherapy).
Doctors often apply hyperthermia in combination with chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
How does hyperthermia work?
n hyperthermia, the temperature of the body is increased locally or in its entirety by means of harmless radiation (electromagnetic or infrared). With local hyperthermia, the doctor can raise the temperature to 42.4 degrees. When the entire body is heated, the temperature rises to a maximum of 39.5 degrees. As a result, the following happens:
The heat and radiation kill or damage cancer cells. Healthy cells are not affected, as is the case with other forms of radiation, such as X-rays.
The blood flow of tumors is usually inadequate, so that the effect of chemotherapy and radiation is less than desired. Hyperthermia improves blood circulation to the tumor (s) and metastases, thus increasing the effectiveness of chemotherapy, hormone therapy and / or radiation.
Hyperthermia prevents the DNA from cancer cells damaged by chemotherapy or radiation from recovering. As a result, hyperthermia makes these treatments more effective.
The latter effect of hyperthermia was published in 2011 in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). The conscious investigation was carried out by the AMC and Erasmus MC.
Hyperthermia increases the concentration of certain proteins (HSP – “Heat Shock Proteins”). These proteins stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells more effectively. In addition, they also make the cancer cells more sensitive to the body’s natural defenses.
The heat of hyperthermia changes the shape (morphology), the biochemistry and the functioning of the cells. The heat damages proteins in the (cancer) cells (denaturation), the fats (lipids) in the cell membrane undergo peroxidation (fatty acids become unstable and vulnerable) and the DNA is damaged. The prerequisite for not damaging healthy cells is that the temperature is administered in a controlled manner (not too high).
What types of hyperthermia are there?
There are five forms of hyperthermia. We only apply the first two.
This form of hyperthermia has deep and superficial variants of heating. The superficial treatment reaches a depth of about six centimeters. Local hyperthermia is not at all stressful to the patient.
Total body hyperthermia
During this treatment, the entire body of the patient is heated to a maximum of 39.5 degrees. In other words, a fever is raised. This is quite stressful for the patient and therefore only suitable for people who are in a reasonable condition.
In addition, there are three other forms of hyperthermia:
The doctors insert heating elements into the tissue to heat an area around a tumor.
Tumors are treated from a body cavity, such as the esophagus or bladder.
An area in the body is “flushed” with heated cytostatics. An example is the HIPEC treatment, a combination of surgery and chemotherapy.
Are there any side-effects?
Treatments with hyperthermia have almost no side effects. But there are situations when hyperthermia is out of place. Certain types of pacemakers become dysregulated by hyperthermia. We do not apply local hyperthermia in such cases.
We refrain from total body hyperthermia if patients are in poor condition, severe heart failure, severe anemia and / or cardiac arrhythmias. We also do not apply total body hyperthermia to metastases in the brain. A local hyperthermia treatment is then possible.
Sometimes after a local treatment hyperthermia the skin at the site of treatment is red for a short time.
Burns may occur in patients whose entire body is treated. But because we put extra cloths on the body, that is practically not the case with us.
Some patients find the treatment difficult, especially because they suffer from the constant heat. In consultation with the patient, we do everything we can to make the treatments as comfortable as possible for them.
Has the effect of hyperthermia been investigated?
Hyperthermia has exploded in mainstream medicine. In the past 50 years, much research has been done worldwide on the effects. And that still continues.
Usefulness of hyperthermia in cancer control
The usefulness of hyperthermia in cancer control has been demonstrated not only in the laboratory, but also through clinical research. An example is a so-called phase III clinical study into the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy in combination with hyperthermia in a number of indications. Recurrent breast cancer, uterine cancer, esophageal cancer, melanoma, head and neck tumors and sarcomas have been studied. It has been found that hyperthermia increases the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy to about 50 percent. In addition, the side effects decrease.
These results are very important. Because if a medicine or a treatment method receives a favorable assessment in a phase III (clinical) study, then it is considered as evidence-based in medicine.
In 2011 the results of various studies on the effects of hyperthermia, combined with chemotherapy, were published. Hyperthermia has been shown to prevent the repair of the DNA of cancer cells damaged by chemotherapy (source: scientific journal PNAS).
A 2010 study shows that women with cervical cancer who used the combination chemotherapy / radiotherapy / hyperthermia have a 50% higher chance of survival.
For more information, see
Currently, several clinical studies are focusing on bladder cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer. There is strong evidence that hyperthermia improves the results of cancer treatments in even more indications. In particular, this applies to treatment with hyperthermia in early cancer.
In 2011 and 2012 in our Hyperthermia Center, treatments of colon and rectal (colon) carcinomas produced a 50 percent complete response and a 30 percent partial response. All patients had grades 3 and 4.
In breast cancer treatments, the results in 2015 and 2016 were: 55 percent complete response and 30 percent partial response.
Since 2011, some hyperthermia treatments have been covered by health insurance.
Hyperthermie for other diseases
We mainly apply hyperthermia in the treatment of cancer. However, other conditions with hyperthermia can also be treated, such as Lyme disease and certain sports injuries. The treatment method and effect are largely the same as the treatment method for cancer, see “Hyperthermia for cancer”. For more specific information, please contact us.