When it comes to attacking cancer cells, incorporating heat can be effective in enhancing treatment. The Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC) is now offering thermal therapy, also known as hyperthermia.

Thermal therapy is highly recommended when treating breast cancer patients with chest wall recurrence, as well as other superficial or palpable cancers, especially occurring in an area of previous radiation.

Thermal therapy involves heating tumors to between 40 – 45º degrees C. The heat sensitizes tumor cells to other forms of standard therapy, including radiation and chemotherapy. It is a non-invasive procedure, and requires no general anesthesia. Patients undergo one hour-long sessions 2-3 times a week for roughly 4-5 weeks.

Side effects are minimal and may include blisters or localized pain. Thermal therapy is used exclusively in conjunction with radiation and/or chemotherapy; it is not a stand-alone therapy.

Numerous recent randomized clinical trials using thermal therapy in addition to standard therapy have demonstrated improvement in local tumor control and survival.

Thermal therapy is just one of the thermal oncology treatments available at UMGCCC. Other types of thermal treatments for cancer include hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy, or HIPEC, which uses heated chemotherapy in combination with surgery to treat cancers that have spread to the lining of the abdomen, and radiofrequency thermal ablation, used for the treatment of liver tumors.

Zeljko Vujaskovic, MD, PhD, professor of Radiation Oncology, is an internationally recognized leader in the field of hyperthermia cancer treatment and has served as president of the Society for Thermal Medicine. 

“As part of our developing Thermal Oncology Program at the Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center, we can offer patients non-toxic treatment with thermal therapy that will further improve their odds in beating cancer,” he says.