Home » Cancer Survival Tips » Hyperthermia


A type of treatment in which body tissue is exposed to high temperatures to damage and kill cancer cells or to make cancer cells more sensitive to the effects of radiation and certain anticancer drugs.

Hyperthermia in Cancer Treatment

Source: The website of the National Cancer Institute
What is hyperthermia?

Hyperthermia (also called thermal therapy or thermotherapy) is a type of cancer treatment in which body tissue is exposed to high temperatures (up to 113°F). Research has shown that high temperatures can damage and kill cancer cells, usually with minimal injury to normal tissues . By killing cancer cells and damaging proteins and structures within cells , hyperthermia may shrink tumors.

Hyperthermia is under study in clinical trials (research studies with people) and is not widely available.

How is hyperthermia used to treat cancer?
Hyperthermia is almost always used with other forms of cancer therapy, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Hyperthermia may make some cancer cells more sensitive to radiation or harm other cancer cells that radiation cannot damage. When hyperthermia and radiation therapy are combined, they are often given within an hour of each other. Hyperthermia can also enhance the effects of certain anticancer drugs.

Numerous clinical trials have studied hyperthermia in combination with radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy. These studies have focused on the treatment of many types of cancer, including sarcoma, melanoma, and cancers of the head and neck, brain, lung, esophagus, breast, bladder, rectum, liver, appendix, cervix, and peritoneal lining (mesothelioma). Many of these studies, but not all, have shown a significant reduction in tumor size when hyperthermia is combined with other treatments. However, not all of these studies have shown increased survival in patients receiving the combined treatments.

What are the different methods of hyperthermia?
Several methods of hyperthermia are currently under study, including local, regional, and whole-body hyperthermia.

The effectiveness of hyperthermia treatment is related to the temperature achieved during the treatment, as well as the length of treatment and cell and tissue characteristics. To ensure that the desired temperature is reached, but not exceeded, the temperature of the tumor and surrounding tissue is monitored throughout hyperthermia treatment. Using local anesthesia, the doctor inserts small needles or tubes with tiny thermometers into the treatment area to monitor the temperature. Imaging techniques, such as CT (computed tomography), may be used to make sure the probes are properly positioned.

Does hyperthermia have any complications or side effects?
Most normal tissues are not damaged during hyperthermia if the temperature remains under 111°F. However, due to regional differences in tissue characteristics, higher temperatures may occur in various spots. This can result in burns, blisters, discomfort, or pain. Perfusion techniques can cause tissue swelling, blood clots, bleeding, and other damage to the normal tissues in the perfused area; however, most of these side effects are temporary. Whole-body hyperthermia can cause more serious side effects, including cardiac and vascular disorders, but these effects are uncommon. Diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting are commonly observed after whole-body hyperthermia.

Scientific evidence

This study noted: The use of hyperthermia as an adjunct to cancer immunotherapy is supported by an increasing number of research data. Both preclinical and clinical data results have demonstrated improved antitumor immune responses with the addition of mild hyperthermia.

This study says: WBH is a highly effective method of treating patients with generalized forms of malignant tumors, in which traditional methods of treatment are ineffective or seemingly unpromising, unresectable forms of tumors with the purpose of their translation as a result of regression into a resectable state, non-radical or conditionally radical surgery and malignant neoplasms, which in the course of treatment developed resistance to cytostatic therapy (chemo- and radioresistant tumors).

This study says: … researchers showed that heat can cause tumor regression, and suggested that hyperthermia stimulates an antitumor immune response for immunogenic tumors. Our investigation has shown that hyperthermia can be useful in cancer therapy, particularly in the management of patients with recurrent tumors in areas subjected to previous irradiation.

Study: The use of hyperthermia alone has resulted in complete overall response rates of 13%. The clinical value of hyperthermia in addition to other treatment modalities has been shown in randomised trials. Significant improvement in clinical outcome has been demonstrated for tumours of the head and neck, breast, brain, bladder, cervix, rectum, lung, oesophagus, vulva and vagina, and also for melanoma. Additional hyperthermia resulted in remarkably higher (complete) response rates, accompanied by improved local tumour control rates, better palliative effects and/or better overall survival rates

Study: Recent advances have highlighted a number of mechanisms by which heat application may interact with the immune system. Some of them are suggesting a similarity between external induction of elevated temperatures and fever, a highly conserved physiological mechanism in the defence against exogenous agents and tumours…Programmed cell death in lymphocytes is essential for immune regulation. Since alterations of immune responses are induced by hyperthermia, apoptosis [programmed cell death] might therefore occur after hyperthermia as well. Apoptosis represents a universal death programme that may be induced by a wide variety of stimuli in a relatively uniform way. During therapeutical hyperthermia, a variety of biochemical and immunological functions are altered.

Study: Fever-range hyperthermia also functions as a biological adjuvant, activating APC and tumour immunity through a number of mechanisms… At higher temperatures, hyperthermia may function to boost hsp expression and release as well as inducing independent effects on immune cell activation.

Study: The role of the immune system in eradicating malignant cells is not yet clarified, however spontaneous regression of some cancers has been demonstrated to be associated to the induction of fever and activation of immunity. The crucial importance of fever in these regressions justifies the attempt to induce artificial thermal elevation of body temperature (hyperthermia) for mimicking natural fever effects on cancer…

The recent recognized involvement in innate immune response, increases further the interest of hyperthermia, but increase the regret for the time missed abandoning Coley’s Toxin and Mixed Bacterial Vaccine too.

Where can I get this treatment?

Available in many clinics including Clinic for Immunotherapy and Integrative Oncology in Vienna, Austria;
The Hyperthermia Centre Hannover (Germany)
Paracelsus Klinik Lustmühle; (Switzerland)

Cancer Survival Tips
Page updated 2024

Please share this page to help others