A body temperature that is greater than normal is commonly referred to as hyperthermia. Illnesses such as fever or heat stroke are common causes of high body temperatures. Hyperthermia, on the other hand, can refer to heat therapy, which is the carefully regulated application of heat for medicinal purposes. We’ll look at how heat can be used to treat cancer in this article.
When cells in the body are subjected to temperatures that are greater than normal, changes occur inside the cells. Other therapies, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, may be more likely to damage the cells as a result of these alterations. High temperatures can destroy cancer cells directly (thermal ablation), but they can also harm or kill healthy cells and tissues.
This is why hyperthermia must be properly monitored and administered by specialists who are familiar with the procedure.
Current devices can accurately administer heat, and hyperthermia is being used (or being investigated) to treat a variety of cancers.
How is cancer treated with hyperthermia?
Depending on the size of the area to be treated, hyperthermia can be applied locally, regionally, or across the body.
Hyperthermia in a specific area
Local hyperthermia is a technique for heating a tiny region, such as a tumour. To kill cancer cells and damage surrounding blood vessels, extremely high temperatures are employed. As a result, the region that is exposed to the heat gets cooked.
Heat may be administered in a variety of ways:
A gadget outside the body fires high-energy waves at a tumour at the body’s surface.
The tumour is pierced using a tiny needle or probe. The probe’s tip emits energy, which warms the tissue in its vicinity.
RFA stands for radiofrequency ablation and is the most prevalent kind of thermal ablation. RFA treats patients using high-energy radio waves. For a brief time, generally 10 to 30 minutes, a thin, needle-like probe is introduced into the tumour. Ultrasound, MRI, or CT scans are used to guide the probe into position. The probe’s tip emits a high-frequency current that generates a lot of heat and kills the cells within a specific radius.
A portion of the body, such as an organ, a limb, or a body cavity (a hollow area within the body), gets heated in regional hyperthermia. It isn’t hot enough to completely kill cancer cells. It’s generally used in conjunction with chemotherapy or radiation.
One method, known as regional perfusion or isolation perfusion, isolates a section of the body’s blood supply from the rest of the circulation. Blood from that region of the body is pumped into a heating device and then returned to the spot to heat it. Chemotherapy can be injected simultaneously. Certain malignancies of the arms and legs, such as sarcomas and melanomas, are being investigated with this method.
Another heat approach can be used in conjunction with surgery to treat peritoneal malignancies (the space in the body that contains the intestines and other digestive organs). Heated chemotherapeutic medicines are pumped into the peritoneal cavity during surgery. Continuous hyperthermic peritoneal perfusion (CHPP), commonly known as hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, is the name given to this procedure (HIPEC). This has shown to be effective in treating certain forms of cancer in trials, but it is unclear whether it is superior to other therapies.
Deep tissue hyperthermia is another method of achieving regional hyperthermia. Devices that are put on the organ’s surface or inside the organ are used in this therapy.
Whole-body heating is being investigated as a technique to improve the efficacy of chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer that has spread (metastatic cancer). Heating blankets, warm-water immersion (placing the patient in warm water), and thermal chambers can all be used to elevate the body temperature (much like large incubators). Sedation (medication that makes you feel calm and drowsy) or even mild anesthesia may be administered to people who are having whole-body hyperthermia.
The body temperature of a person can be increased as if they have a fever, which is known as fever-range whole-body hyperthermia.
Pros and cons of hypothermia:
Hyperthermia’s potential adverse effects vary depending on the technique employed and the body area being treated. The majority of side effects are temporary, but some might be dangerous.
Tumors can be destroyed without surgery using local heating, such as RFA. It works best, according to scientists, when the region being treated is kept within a specific temperature range for a specific amount of time. However, this isn’t always easy. It’s difficult to precisely estimate the temperature within a tumor right now. It can also be difficult to maintain a consistent temperature in a region without harming neighboring tissues. Furthermore, not all bodily tissues react to heat in the same way — some are more sensitive than others.
Local hyperthermia’s side effects
Pain, infection, bleeding, blood clots, swelling, burns, blistering, and damage to the skin, muscles, and nerves surrounding the treated region are all possible side effects of local hyperthermia.
Although hyperthermia appears to be a potential method to enhance cancer treatment, it is still primarily an experimental technique. It needs specialized equipment as well as a doctor and treatment team with experience with it. As a result, it isn’t available at all cancer treatment clinics.
Many clinical experiments are being conducted to better understand and improve hyperthermia. Hyperthermia is still being studied to see how it may be used in conjunction with other cancer therapies to enhance results.
Studies are also exploring for techniques to reach deeper organs and other areas that are now untreatable with hyperthermia.