Hyperthermia can sensitize cancer cells to radiation therapy, thereby making your radiation treatments significantly more effective than radiation therapy alone.

The two therapies work together to fight the growing cancer cells. Heat also prevents cancer cells from repairing the cancer-damaging effects of radiation.

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radation therapy with hyperthermia comparison

What Is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, can kill or slow the growth of cancer cells by severely damaging their DNA. This damage includes damage of a DNA base, a double strand break in the DNA, a single strand break, and cross linking in the DNA.

types of DNA damage

cell division diagramDamage from the radiation accumulates in the cells and eventually kills, or damages them, enough so the cancer cells stop dividing. From there, the body’s immune system can clean them out of the body. It may take days, weeks, or months, before the radiation has damaged the cancer cells enough to kill the them. During this time, the accumulating damage from the radiation helps top the cell cycle.

The Two Types Of Radiotherapies For Cancer Treatment:

  • External Beam Radiation therapy is radiation directed from an outside source towards your body, and may involve multiple weekly treatments for multiple weeks.
  • Brachytherapy is the placement of radioactive sources in or just next to a tumor. The word brachytherapy comes from the Greek “brachy” meaning “close or short distance.” During brachytherapy, the radioactive sources may be left in place permanently or only temporarily, depending upon your cancer.


how does radiotherapy work

Hyperthermia Enhances Radiation Therapy

causes of DNA damage

Hyperthermia enhances radiation therapy by preventing cancer cells from repairing themselves after radiation exposure. Radiation therapy works by damaging the DNA of cancer cells enough so that the cancer cells either die or stop dividing. However, all cells have the ability to repair their DNA over time, counteracting the radiation therapy and slowing down its effects. Hyperthermia prevents cancer cells from repairing themselves by disrupting the cell’s repair machinery.

Hyperthermia Inhibits DNA Repair Pathway

DNA repair pathway

Because hyperthermia prevents cancer cells from repairing themselves after radiation, the damage caused by radiation can accumulate in the cancer, eventually leading to cancer cell death.

Hyperthermia Sensitizes Cells To Radiation Therapy

Hyperthermia may also disrupt the proteins that are responsible for maintaining the structure of DNA, making the DNA less stable, and therefore extra vulnerable to disruption from radiation. In cell nuclei, DNA is wrapped up around proteins, called histones, and may be be sheltered from the radiation. However, heat from hyperthermia make these proteins less secure, and therefore allow the cancer cell DNA to be more sensitive to heat.

DNA diagram

Furthermore, DNA is accessed by cell replication machinery, which is also vulnerable to heat. When this machinery is heated, it has less ability to bind DNA and replicate it, which may further inhibit the cell cycle and reduce cancer cell growth.

Additional Resources

Hyperthermia Cancer Institute_medical books and professional stethoscope

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For more information about hyperthermia for cancer treatment, please call The Hyperthermia Cancer Institute at (888) 580-5900 or contact us to schedule an appointment.

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