An old medical theory renews itself as a cancer-fighting treatment. Hyperthermia therapy is heating up cancer cells and killing them. In the second part of this special report, we take a look at how it works.
“A lot of the patients don’t survive their cancers. That’s obvious. That’s how cancer works these days and we’re hoping to change that,” said Cancer Treatment Centers of America Hyperthermia Specialist Dr. Curt Heese.
Dr. Curt Heese is a hyperthermia specialist at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America where he treats stage four pancreatic cancer patient Marc Haywood. He came to Dr. Heese after being given six months to live.
“When someone tells you, you have six months. You almost have like a movie moment like you’re dreaming, like this is not real. So I’ve had my ups and downs. When I went to CTC, they made me feel a lot better. They gave me hope,” said pancreatic cancer patient Marc Haywood.
That was a year and a half ago; a full year of life Marc wasn’t expected to live. We interviewed Marc via Skype after three days of chemotherapy and hyperthermia therapy at CTC. His tumor isn’t growing anymore.
“It was very simple. It was very easy. A lot of times I would fall asleep during the process, said Haywood.
Dr. Heese uses the Utah-based Pyrexar Medical’s hyperthermia therapy machine to treat Haywood. It targets the pelvis region where we find pancreatic cancer amongst others forms.
“This machine treats them deeply, internally. A heating pad goes down a 1/2inch, a 1/4 of inch. This device can go down to the very center of a person and deliver the heat deep inside of them, but non-invasively,” said Dr. Heese.
“You definitely sweat. They offer you cold rags and there’s a cup with ice cubes in there. You’re in this room and it’s like a microwave,” said Haywood.
There’s even a more common, superficial machine.
“The system is capable of doing superficial treatments of sites such as recurrent breast cancer, chest walls, head and neck, melanoma. All things that tend to occur more on the surface of the body used in combination with radiation therapy,” said Pyrexar Medical Chief Technology Officer Paul Turner.
On the monitor attached to the hyperthermia machine, you can see the temperature controls used to customize care.
Those at Pyrexar believe their technology will revolutionize hyperthermia treatments and open the door to more cancer patients.
“Advanced cervical cancer, bladder cancer, colorectal cancer, soft tissue sarcomas,” said Turner.
“This applicator lid, lifts up. The patient can lie down on the pads and the applicator. They’ll place the temperature sensors as needed. The applicator lid closes,” said Pyrexar Medical Vice President of Engineering Jason Ellsworth.
The water then fills in the boluses over the cancer affected areas where hyperthermia is then administered.
“We can see the temperature rise during the treatment as we’re heating to see if we’re getting to the right temperature throughout the whole volume that’s being treated in the patient,” said Ellsworth.
Only problem, it’s only FDA approved for Humanitarian Advice Exemption for advanced cervical cancer in conjunction with radiation therapy–only. The hope is to get the FDA to reconsider. Haywood says, if that happens, it’ll mean all cancer patients could get all treatment options possible.
“The hyperthermia machine, I think has had the most impact. I believe it works,” said Haywood.