Heat as a means of therapy has been known for a very long time. Even Hippocrates and the ancient Egyptians used heat therapy. Heat can cause considerable damage to living cells, hence the body can only survive for a short time with a high temperature in excess of 42°C (107°F). However, the destructive force of heat is also a blessing. Used skillfully, it can help to treat cancer and tumors. Malignant growths can be controlled or may even recede as a result of targeted hyperthermia. Hyperthermia is a non-invasive and particularly gentle method of treatment. It is highly effective because, on its own and in combination with traditional medicine and naturopathic-biological forms of treatment, it is capable of bringing about a distinct improvement in the course of tumor diseases. This is why hyperthermia plays an important part in the total treatment concept at St. George Hospital. For many years now, the St. George Hospital has worked intensively on researching and improving hyperthermia therapy in the treatment of acute cancer and in the after-care of cancer patients. It is certainly amongst the leading treatment centers in this field, world-wide.
In local-regional hyperthermia, the heat is only directed regionally and straight to the tissue or organ affected by the tumor. This is in contrast to whole-body hyperthermia, where the whole body undergoes excessive heating. First of all, the region of the body affected by the tumor is positioned between two applicators. Short or micro waves are then concentrated by computer control in the tumor or tumor bed, and the temperature is raised to 42°C (107°F) up to a maximum of 44°C (111°F). This temperature is maintained in the tumor tissue for approx. 60 to 90 minutes. A temperature check is carried out either directly in the tumor or from outside using a radiometer which, unlike invasive temperature monitoring, carries no risk of infection and tumor cell dislocation. Heating the tumor tissue to 44°C (111°F) also affects adjacent healthy tissue. However, this readily dissipates the heat by increasing circulation - something of which the tumor tissue, because of its more primitive blood supply, is not capable. The impaired blood supply in the tumor tissue results in inadequate heat regulation and a build-up of heat. As a result of the heat build-up, the tumor cells are starved of oxygen and nutrients. These deficiency symptoms result in the impairment of important metabolic processes of cell division and cell maintenance and the repair systems of the cell also fail. In this way, heat-damaged cell components (membranes, proteins) are not replaced, which, in the end, can result in the tumor cells dying. Furthermore, more recent investigations have shown that cancer cells, when heated to approx. 42°C (107°F), form peculiary characteristic protein structures on their surface, unlike healthy tissue. These protein structures (e. g. -HSP 72), also known as heat-shock proteins, activate the natural killer cells of the body' s own defense mechanism to attack the tumor cells. Hence, hyperthermia works not only by heat destruction but also by stimulating the immune system.
At the St. Georg Hospital, local-regional hyperthermia is offered in two different forms:
Local-regional hyperthermia combines well with chemotherapy. In the over-acid environment of the already heat-damaged tumor cell, some cytostatics agents achieve an even greater cell-destroying effect. The combined effect of both treatments often means that significantly lower doses of the chemotherapy substances are needed than for a monotherapy. This largely avoids side effects, such as hair loss and nausea. Even a tumor which was resistant to chemotherapy and radiation therapy, will respond again to these therapies following hyperthermia treatment.
Systemic whole-body hyperthermia in the form of extreme hyperthermia at 41.5-42°C (106°F-107°F), together with hyperglycaemia and possibly chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Prostate hyperthermia (hyperthermia treatment) - as a special form of local hyperthermia. In this case, a heat probe is introduced directly into the urethra and positioned in the prostate, so that the organ is heated to 45-70°C (113°F-126°F).