External Thermal Therapy
This article is a part of University of Maryland Rounds, which features clinical and research updates from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and University of Maryland Medical Center. See more Rounds articles.
When it comes to attacking cancer cells, incorporating heat can be effective in enhancing treatment. The Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC) is now offering external thermal therapy, also known as hyperthermia.
External thermal therapy is highly recommended when treating breast cancer patients with chest wall reoccurrence, as well as other superficial or palpable cancers, especially occurring in an area of previous radiation.
External thermal therapy involves heating tumors to between 40 – 45º degrees C. The heat sensitizes tumor cells to other forms of standard therapy, including radiation and chemotherapy. It is a non-invasive procedure, and requires no general anesthesia. Patients undergo one hour-long session two to three times a week for roughly 4-5 weeks.
Side effects are minimal and may include blisters or localized pain. External thermal therapy is used exclusively in conjunction with radiation and/or chemotherapy; it is not a stand-alone therapy.
Numerous recent randomized clinical trials using thermal therapy in addition to standard therapy have demonstrated improvement in local tumor control and survival.
External thermal therapy is just one of the thermal oncology treatments available at UMGCC. Other types of thermal treatments for cancer include hyperthermic interperitoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC, which uses heated chemotherapy in combination with surgery to treat cancers that have spread to the lining of the abdomen, and radiofrequency thermal ablation, used for the treatment of liver tumors.
Zeljko Vujaskovic, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Radiation Oncology, is an internationally recognized leader in the field of hyperthermia cancer treatment and has served as president of the Society for Thermal Medicine. “As part of our developing Thermal Oncology Program at the Greenebaum Cancer Center, we can offer patients non-toxic treatment with external thermal therapy that will further improve their odds in beating cancer,” he says.
To learn more about external thermal therapy, contact the Department of Radiation Oncology at 410-328-6080.