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Heat cranked to kill cancer


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This is not entirely lung cancer related, but interesting none the less.. From this mornings Calgary Sun...

July 26, 2006

Heat cranked to kill cancer

Scientists hope hot concept leads to treatment progress


TORONTO -- It's a concept that's been used since the time of Hippocrates -- using heat to treat what ails us.

Now, U.S. researchers want to apply that age-old therapy to try to kill certain cancer cells, and they're using the experience of modern-day sports hero Lance Armstrong and others cured of advanced testicular cancer as the underpinning for their investigations.

In a commentary in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from Johns Hopkins University say the reason advanced testicular cancer has such a high cure rate -- 80% or more -- is because the tumour cells are sensitive to heat. And they suggest that makes these cells easier to kill with chemotherapy and radiation, even when they have spread to form tumours in other parts of the body.

That's because cells in the testicles -- whether healthy or malignant -- start out a few degrees lower than body temperature (37C), part of a built-in system aimed at keeping heat-sensitive sperm cool and safe. (It's why men with fertility problems are advised to wear loose boxer shorts instead of tight, heat-retaining briefs.)

So when cancer cells spread beyond the testicle, they end up in a much warmer environment, said co-author Robert Getzenberg, director of urology research at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, explaining the excess heat appears to weaken the cells' inner structure, making them easier to destroy with drugs and radiation.

The researchers plan to test this principle, dubbed the Lance Armstrong Effect, on other types of metastasizing cancers, Getzenberg said yesterday.

"There are some differences that exist, obviously, between testicular cancer cells and breast cancer cells, but our feeling is that the general principle will be the same, that the temperature differences that go on when a cell metastasizes will make it more susceptible," he said.

The researchers point out that warming up the body has been used since ancient times as a treatment for ailments ranging from back pain to arthritis.

It's a simple notion, but one they hope fellow scientists will start investigating for possible application to one of medicine's most complex diseases.

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