Hyperthermia and Cancer
- Posted on: Feb 1 2019
Hyperthermia means elevation in temperature and for purposes of this explanation, the term refers to body temperature.
The most common type of hyperthermia the body experiments is fever.
Fever is one of the body’s defense mechanisms, this can be activated by external factors such as infections, intoxications, excessive sun exposure, as well as internal factors such as chronic disease, leukemias and lymphomas to name a few.
But, why does the body increase its temperature in these situations?
Like many functions of the body, these have developed through the evolution of the human being and exposure to its environment, resulting in this evolutionary development and defense mechanisms, in this case, fever.
Through different biochemical signals, the hypothalamus located at the base of the brain is responsible for the regulation of this function.
The approximate temperature, which maintains some constancy or little variability and considered as “normal” is 36.7 degrees Celsius with only slight variations. The hypothalamus is the thermostat of the body, which through different biochemical signals adapts or generates a response to keep the body at an optimal temperature, it is important to mention that by definition, fever is a syndrome, a set of signs and symptoms, where the main or most common one is hyperthermia.
We use the term hyperthermia when the body temperature is above 38 degrees Celsius, temperatures above 42.6 degrees Celsius are usually fatal for humans.
We can say that fever is mostly a controlled mechanism. From which we can obtain certain benefits, such as the improvement of the immune response, it also hampers bacterial growth and viral replication and is of influence on vaccine efficacy.
Hyperthermia and cancer.
As we have already mentioned, fever is a syndrome where one of the symptoms is the elevation of body temperature AKA Hyperthermia.
Remember that cancer is a multifactorial disease, a result of the possible combination of multiple diseases, where its main manifestation is the formation of a tumor.
Now, let’s also remember that this battle is being fought at a cellular level, where the characteristics of these dysfunctional cells exhibit weaknesses from which we can take advantage of; being one of them, the liability of the malignant cell to temperatures between 39 and 42 degrees Celsius. Where we can see multiple events that generate stress to the malignant environment resulting in different beneficial responses within the context of the cancer treatment.
By generating these temperatures and maintaining them in a controlled manner, it has been possible to observe these changes and aggressions that aggravate the environment and, therefore, weakens the malignant cell. On one hand, we observe instability of the cell membrane, making it more permeable; it is here that there is an opportunity to penetrate inside the malignant cell with a killing agent, to generate a better effect and result.
Hyperthermia induces the malignant cell to release surface antigens important for immune recognition and activation; this is a cardinal point for our therapies. We have observed dysfunctional cell death during sustained and prolonged hyperthermia, this is achieved through deficient circulation of the tumor that is unable to adequately dissipate the temperature, generating thermal entrapment and intra-tumoral changes that can be considered cytotoxic.
It is of utmost importance not to exploit this benefit since hyperthermia alone as an oncological treatment does not have the capacity to cope with the disease.
Hyperthermia as a medical treatment
First introduced in Germany, the hyperthermia may be performed different techniques that allow the medical induction of controlled heat for therapeutic purposes.
There are multiple modalities, all achieving their end through different methods and technologies, where the use of infrared lamps is the most well-known technique.
These lamps have medical standards for their use and should not be compared in any way with the infrared light bulbs found for example in dry or commercial saunas.
With the advancement of technology, we now have the ability to generate hyperthermia in a way not limited to the use of lamps, and in a much more controlled environment.
Heat makes cancer cells weak and gives doctors, the perfect window to inject cancer-killing agents in the patient’s body. The cancer cells die more easily when the patient is experiencing hyperthermia.