Brief History of Hyperthermia
The healing effect of heat treatment was already mentioned in the advanced cultures of the old Egypt (2400 B.C.), but only the medical professionals of the Greek Antique used this therapeutic approach consistently, acknowledged it and called it over-warming (in Greek: Hyperthermia). “Give me the power to produce fever and I heal every illness”, said Parmenides, Greek physician, 540-480 B.C.
Hyperthermia in cancer treatment
Hyperthermia (also called thermal therapy or thermotherapy) is an acute condition which occurs when the body produces or absorbs more heat than it can dissipate. It is usually caused by prolonged exposure to high temperatures. The heat-regulating mechanisms of the body eventually become overwhelmed and unable to effectively deal with the heat, causing the body temperature to climb uncontrollably.
Hyperthermia can also be created artificially by drugs or medical devices. In these instances it may be used to treat cancer and other conditions. Cancer cells are more heat-sensitive than healthy cells and their structure reacts differently to overheating. In 1910 the possibility of overheating in order to increase the radiation effect on malicious tumors was described for the first time. This already well-known and applied method was rediscovered as so called “whole body hyperthermia” in the beginning of the 1960s. Since the 70s a number of studies were run to further investigate this therapy form.
Research has shown that high temperatures (up to 44Â°C) can damage and kill cancer cells, usually with minimal injury to normal tissues. By killing cancer cells and damaging proteins and structures within cells, hyperthermia may shrink tumors.
Hyperthermia is almost always used with other forms of cancer therapy, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Hyperthermia may make some cancer cells more sensitive to radiation or harm other cancer cells that radiation 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, which is mutually strengthened thereby and a healing more likely – the so-called synergistic effect of hyperthermia. It was found out that cytostatic drugs (chemotherapy substances) clearly act more aggressively at temperatures over 40Â° C than within the range of the normal body temperature.