The healing concept of targeted fever therapy – hyperthermia
The healing concept of targeted fever therapy
Since ancient Greek times disease has been treated and healed with heat and the specific use of Hyperthermia in the treatment of cancer was already scientifically described 100 years ago. Unfortunately this form or treatment was mostly forgotten. Recently however this therapy has re-merged as an adjacent cancer therapy that is even being used in cancer clinics and hospitals. This is used because it has been shown to dramatically improve the therapeutic potential of chemotherapy and radiation.
“What the medicine doesn’t heal, the scalpel heals, what the scalpel doesn’t heal, heals the fire” wrote Hippocrates 470-370 BC. Even before Hippocrates, Parmenides from Elea 540-480 BC wrote; “give me the power to create fever and I can cure any disease”.
More recently the American surgeon Dr. William B. Coley (1862-1936) had the Coley-Toxin named after him. The Coley-Toxin is a cocktail of fever inducing bacteria that was given to cancer patients. Until the outbreak of the Second World War this was the one of the most successful cancer treatments available. Even in the comparison to modern cancer therapies, the results displayed in the early 1900s with the use of the Coley toxin are not to be ignored.
Closely related to fever therapy is medical hyperthermia, which has been used since the 1970s. In this therapy the warming of a specific tumor site or the whole body is achieved with the use of microwaves, radio waves, ultrasound or infrared waves. Currently there are approximately 200 doctors practices in Germany and several universities that use this method. Therefore ongoing research is being conducted into this growing field of therapy. The most common use of hyperthermia is in the treatment of cancer, however several clinics also successfully implement its use for autoimmune diseases.
There are several different forms of hyperthermia, which differ in their application and purpose.
- Local deep hyperthermia with radio waves
- Whole body moderate hyperthermia (normally performed at moderate temperatures however can be used as a more extreme therapy)
- Surface infrared hyperthermia
All forms of hyperthermia increase the therapeutic potential of chemotherapy, strengthen the immune system and activate detoxification pathways. Post cancer, hyperthermia can be used to reduce the incidence of re-occurrence due to the support it offers to the bodies self-healing potential. If a patient is about to have chemotherapy, prior treatment with hyperthermia can induce a threshold effect that can make an otherwise non-therapeutic therapy have therapeutic potential.
There are now many patients who choose deep tissue hyperthermia as their primary form of treatment. This is especially common in patients who are faced with a conventional therapy option, which have only slight chances of success in their condition. Some examples are patients with brain tumors or liver involvement. In the past couple of years the use of hyperthermia for brain tumors has shown exceptional results. These results are so astounding that in the near future it is expected that hyperthermia will become a standard treatment protocol for Brain cancer. The limiting factor for the incorporation of hyperthermia into standard treatment protocols is due to the lack of funding for larger clinical studies. Unfortunately studies cost a lot of money and as hyperthermia is not a pharmaceutical based protocol, money to research this area is often lacking.
Heat only affects the cancer cell
Healthy cells survive increased heat environments without lasting damage. However the increased metabolism that accompanies the heat irrevocably harms a cancer cell.
- The inside of a tumor cell becomes over-acidified
- The cell loosed energy (ATP)
- The outside of the cell (cell membrane) and the genetic material (DNA) inside the cell gets damaged
- The cancer cell begins to develop heat shock proteins, which alert the immune system to their presence.
Therefore thanks to hyperthermia, treatments such as chemotherapy have an exponential therapeutic potential due to the increased absorption and distribution into cancerous tissue. It is a fact that most chemotherapy agents have a stronger tumoricidal effect when combined with heat therapy.
Also in classic radiation therapy, treatment with hyperthermia increased the sensitivity of cancer cells to radiation without increasing side effects and surrounding tissue damage.
Unfortunately hyperthermia is still not accepted by public health insurances. Although private insurances do commonly cover the costs of these therapies, patients not privately insured must pay for their therapies out of their own pocket. This makes hyperthermia treatment inaccessible for many patients who may benefit from it.
The cancer cells self-termination ability is reactivated
Apoptosis is a term used to describe natural cell suicide. Apoptosis is deactivated in cancer cells and therefore are not able to recognize their own malfunctions and terminate their existence. This is one of the fundamental differences between a cancer cell and a healthy cell. During local deep tissue hyperthermia with radio waves (13,56 MHz) primarily is performed on patients lying horizontally. A radio wave applicator is positioned on the skin over the targeted body area. The radio waves then permeate the body in this area and get converted into heat energy inside tumor tissue. Healthy cell do not have the same vibrational frequency and therefore do not get heated or damaged. Due to the combined heat and electric field created in local hyperthermia, this therapy has also shown to re-active a cancer cells ability to undergo apoptosis (programed cell death).
Disease progression during local and whole body hyperthermia is measured with various methods such as: computer tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, ultra sound and tumor markers. Through these analyses it has been found that cancers located in the abdominal region are especially susceptible to local hyperthermia. Included in these are; liver, gall bladder and pancreatic tumors. Until a few years ago due to chemo-resistance, liver metastasis did not have a viable treatment option, now the availability of a hyperthermia, along with other treatments or as an independent therapy, has given hope to patients. Especially as the side effects of local hyperthermia are low to non existent.
Sweating and drinking leads to a “fluid exchange”
The moderate whole body hyperthermia is primarily used conjunctive therapy option to hinder the proliferation and growth of tumor tissue. The immune stimulating effect of fever has been well known and proven since several decades. During the whole body hyperthermia the patient lies horizontally in a heating chamber with their head out to prevent overheating of the brain. The heat of the chamber is adjusted upon the reaction of each individual. Within 2-3 hours the core body temperature gets increased up to 405 °C. This temperature is then held for up to 2 hours. During this the patients sweats between 2 and 3 liters and correspondingly drinks the same amount of filtered water. This results in a rapid fluid exchange and in toxic patients this mobilization has a detoxifying action. Patients may experience the positive effects of such a detoxification or cleansing for days and even weeks following the treatment. Depending on individual circumstances this therapy can be repeated every 2-4 weeks.
With psychology survival time increases.
Alongside hyperthermia psychotherapeutic management of the patient is a fundamental core to therapy outcomes. Care and specific therapeutic actions during this fever state enables the treatment and healing related to deep-seated fears, anxieties, anger and trauma that are commonly associated with cancer conditions. Even in language the experience of a fever is often an expression of emotion. One can have a mental fever of passion, anger, jealousy, happiness, etc. All these strong emotions are connected with a feeling or understanding of heat. Therefore the treatment of these situations during whole body hyperthermia dramatically speeds up the therapy. Commonly the most intense and breakthrough related consultations are held during or after such a therapy. The experience of the fever and corresponding physical exhaustion allows the higher intellect to separate itself somewhat and become more aware of its situation. Therefore patients are commonly more open about their situation and can become more in touch with their inner feelings. Because of this they are more ready to confront and work on situations and topics that would previously not have been possible. Therefore the combination of physical heating and physiological opening allows for a joint therapy.
In conclusion the use of hyperthermia as a cancer therapy has long been out of its experimental and trial stages. Therefore with growing acceptance and understanding the utilization of the therapy will become a standard affair. Hopefully in the near future further research studies will be conducted to illustrate the therapeutic potential of this age old, yet revolutionary therapy.