Heat Therapy Fights Soft-Tissue Tumors
Study Shows Targeted Heat Therapy Lowers Risk of Recurrence of Soft-Tissue Sarcomas
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 23, 2009 (Berlin) -- Tumors in soft tissues such as muscle, fat, and
nerves around the joints are much less likely to come back if they are heated
at the time patients receive chemotherapy, a study shows.
There's also a suggestion that patients who receive targeted heat therapy
may live longer, says the study's leader, Rolf Issels, MD, a professor of
medical oncology at Klinikum Grosshadern Medical Center at the University of
"These findings provide a new standard treatment option and we believe they
are likely to change the way many specialists treat these tumors," he tells
The results were presented at a joint meeting of the European Cancer
Organization and the European Society of Medical Oncology.
Soft tissue sarcomas involve tumors that start in the soft, supporting
tissues of the body, such as muscle, fat, blood vessels, nerves, tendons,
tissue around the joints, and deep layers of the skin. They are relatively
rare, accounting for about 3% of all cancers, but are more common in children
and young adults.
Surgery is the primary treatment, but the tumors are difficult to remove, so
radiation and/or chemotherapy are often given to kill lingering cancer
However, the benefits of chemotherapy have been shown to be limited, Issels
says, and high-risk patients often relapse within two or three years.
Targeted Heat Therapy: How It Works
That's where targeted heat therapy comes in. The technique, known as
regional hyperthermia, uses focused electromagnetic energy to warm the tissue
in and around the tumor to between 104 and 109.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
The heat packs a four-pronged attack against the tumor, says Gerard C. van
Rhoon, PhD, head of the hyperthermia unit at Erasmus University Medical Center
in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
First, it directly kills cancer cells, he says. It also improves blood flow,
which allows more chemotherapy to get through to the area of the tumor.
The improved blood flow also brings more oxygen to the tumor, which makes it
more sensitive to radiation. Finally, the heat interferes with cancer cells'
repair mechanisms and they die off, van Rhoon tells WebMD.