© Hyperthermia Cancer Institute 2022
Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, can destroy cancer cells by severely damaging their DNA. DNA damage from multiple radiation treatments accumulates in the cells and eventually the cancer cells stop dividing and are destroyed. The more radiation delivered into a cancer cell, the less likely that cell is able to repair itself. Your body’s immune system and other mechanisms can work to remove the damaged cancer cells from the body. It may take days, weeks, or months, before the radiation has damaged the cancer cells enough to destroy them. During this time, the body has natural mechanisms to repair the cancer cell DNA.
The process of cell destruction is significantly enhanced with hyperthermia therapy. Hyperthermia’s targeted heat directed to the tumor site helps to prevent the body from repairing the DNA of the tumor cells, making it more likely that the body will destroy the cancer cells. Hyperthermia has no known negative effects on healthy cells.
Hyperthermia improves blood flow to tumors, which increases the oxygen content throughout the tumor, including the tumor’s core. Radiation therapy works better in higher oxygen environments. Adding hyperthermia sensitizes the cells to radiation therapy, a process known as “radiosensitization.” This process allows the radiation therapy to destroy more cancer cells.
When hyperthermia is added to radiation therapy, the treatment is significantly more effective than radiation therapy alone in unique and specific ways. Multiple studies show that adding hyperthermia improves response to radiation therapy and increases survival.