History of Thermal Medicine

Thermal medicine refers to the manipulation of whole body or specific tissue temperature as a prelude to, or as the main treatment of a disease. Heat has been used to treat various types of diseases for centuries and it appears to have stayed on as a firm domestic favourite in the first aid treatment for such diverse ailments as sprains, sore muscles and insect bites. Heat is known to stimulate the sensory receptors in the skin and its application may decrease the transmission of pain signals to the brain partially relieving the discomfort experienced.

Parmenides of Elea (a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher born around 515 BC) is quoted as having said ‘Give me the power to produce fever and I will cure all disease.’ The quote is sometimes, understandably, attributed to Hippocrates, widely acknowledged as the father of medicine. Almost two millennia ago, Ruphos of Ephesus said, ‘If indeed any were so good a physician as to be able to produce fever, it would not be necessary to look for any other remedy in sickness.’

Outside Egypt and Greece, Carolina Indians are reported to have used hot mud holes in treating diverse diseases of the extremities. North Africans, beset by remittent fevers, found solace through sweating induced by hot sand and hot water baths. In the East, the Chinese and the Japanese are among the earliest known people to have used their hot springs for therapeutic purposes and to treat such diverse conditions as acute genitourinary infections, arthritis, syphilis, rheumatism and digestive, nervous, ocular and respiratory diseases.

So the idea has been around for a while, knocking around in the heads of the enlightened, from ancient times down to the present day. The actual practice of hyperthermia, though, had to wait for a few centuries before scientific advances made it a possibility.


Local Hyperthermia (sometimes referred to as superficial hyperthermia or thermal ablation) is heat therapy and is today one of the most important methods used to treat cancer. The body tissue is exposed to high temperatures (up to 45 degrees Celsius). High temperatures have the ability to kill and damage cancer cells leaving normal tissue largely intact. Heat also has the effect of making cancer cells more receptive to chemotherapy and radiation therapy, while inhibiting their growth.  

How does Local Hyperthermia Work?

Local Hyperthermia, as the name suggests, is used as heat treatment for cancer and the process is confined to the part that is diseased rather than subjecting the whole body to heat treatment. The blood supply inside the tumour is destroyed by the heat while the heat itself has no appreciable effect on normal cells. The death of the cancer cells arises due to the change of environment within the tumour which becomes hypoxic and acidic.

The heat also has the effect of leaving the cancerous cells nutritionally deprived. The environment in the tumour potentiates (or actively enables) the desired response of the tumour cells to hyperthermia.  This suboptimal environment in the tumour is also hostile to any attempts by the tissue to repair the damage caused by the heat. Any development of thermal tolerance is also prevented by this suboptimal environment. This acidic environment that has been generated by the application of Local Hyperthermia is also seen to actively encourage the positive response of tumour cells at high temperatures.


In treatments where it is necessary to combine Radiotherapy with Hyperthermia, changes in oxidation in tumours and in normal tissues would potentially have significant implications in the effectiveness of the combined treatment. Drug distribution patterns in the tumours and in normal tissue (influenced by blood flow) is also a factor to consider when hyperthermia is used in conjunction with chemotherapy.

The effects of Radiotherapy are diminished by the environment in a tumour. The addition of Hyperthermia as part of the treatment has a positive additive effect. It has also been observed that the use of both radiotherapy and diverse drugs is greatly enhanced by increased bodily temperatures. The application of Hyperthermia may be achieved through various methods. Typically Local Hyperthermia can be induced through the use of internal or external energy sources. The use of Hyperthermia alone has seen the response rate jump by 13%.

The fact that normal cells are left unaffected recommends Local Hyperthermia as an important therapy in the fight against cancer. Studies on experimentally-induced tumours, (conducted in the 1970’s) first alerted scientists on the possible use of hyperthermia to combat cancer. Temperatures exceeding 41 – 42 degrees Celsius were demonstrated to kill cells.

When higher temperatures are applied (up to 56 degrees Celsius) and whose intention is to produce necrosis, coagulation and / or carbonisation (each one a temperature-specific event) the process is then called thermo-ablation.  The damage induced by classical hyperthermia to cells and tissue is irreversible in the main. It has the effect of enhancing radiation injury to tumour cells and significantly improving the efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs in cancer treatment.

When used alongside other treatment modalities Hyperthermia has registered noteworthy successes for hand and neck tumours (which are notoriously difficult to treat), brain tumours as well as tumours associated with breast and bladder cancer. Significant improvement has also been observed in treating tumours associated with the rectum, vulva and vagina as well as the cervix, lung, oesophagus and melanoma. The results of Hyperthermia use went one better and showed improved local tumour control rates and significantly better palliative effects all of which ultimately translated into overall higher survival rates. Any toxicity that has arisen out of hyperthermia use has been inconsequential.  

A key feature to consider in using Local Hyperthermia to treat cancer is the behaviour of blood flow in tumours. Different tumour types display different patterns of blood flow. As the tumour grows larger the tendency is for the blood flow to decrease, a development which can be attributed to the progressive deterioration of the various blood vessels and also to the rapid growth of tumour cell population relative to the blood vessels in the tumour.

Because the heat dissipation in tumours is considerably slower than in non-cancerous tissue, the temperature of the tumour will rise higher than in non-cancerous tissue. This is a crucial point in the application of Local Hyperthermia as the tumour unwittingly ‘plays along’ and makes the process that much easier. Also the network of blood vessels in the tumour incurs significant damage when exposed to high temperatures that may alter but leave undamaged the vasculature (blood vessel network) of non-cancerous tissue.

The bulk of tests on the efficacy of Local Hyperthermia have used animal models. However the human patients who have undergone this therapy have reported good progress in their cases.  

Meanwhile Local Hyperthermia has been used effectively in the control of both primary and secondary tumours. Secondary tumours refer to tumours which have recurred after previous treatment. Local Hyperthermia is considered a safe treatment regardless of the tumour development or the patient’s condition.

Local Hyperthermia – An integral part of Alternative Cancer Treatment

Local Hyperthermia – An integral part of Alternative Cancer Treatment

It is always important to reiterate that, as with other therapies, Local Hyperthermia should ideally fit into a broader healing setup rather than thinking of it as a stand-alone treatment. To fully garner the benefits offered by Local Hyperthermia and to ensure a lasting whole body wellness, this therapy should ideally incorporate other suitable cancer-killing primary treatments as part of a concerted effort to tame cancer.  The ‘perfect partner’ treatment for Local Hyperthermia would be Metronomic Therapy. This is a natural and easily tolerated form of chemotherapy. IPT could also be used in conjunction with Local Hyperthermia.

Depending on the state of the cancer and the assessment of the doctor, other primary treatments that could be paired with Local Hyperthermia include Metabolic Treatments which present an easy way to stop energy production inside the cancerous tumour. Viral Immune Therapy which kills cancer cells, leaving the healthy ones untouched, is worthy of consideration as a cancer therapy that has the potential of being enhanced by hyperthermia.

Other primary therapies that have the potential to be enhanced by the use of Local Hyperthermia include Anti-Angiogenic which selectively stops cancer’s blood vessels. Herbal Medicine which, like Local Hyperthermia, enhances the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiotherapy while minimising any potential side effects is a key feature of primary therapies. It has the potential of further enhancing the efficacy of Local Hyperthermia as a treatment.

Using Local Hyperthermia as part of a holistic approach to treating cancer and having placed it firmly in its rightful place as a primary cancer treatment, it is important to point out that alternative treatments or Integrative Cancer Treatments strive for a healing of the whole human body. Getting rid of the cancer is of course the core business of these treatments. To achieve whole body wellness other treatments should be used together with primary cancer treatments. These other alternative therapies include primary immune systems whose role is to boost the immune system and which make use of a variety of methods to achieve this goal. This then is a particularly apt therapy to combine with Local Hyperthermia.

Other primary immune systems that complement primary cancer treatments include Dendritic Cells which play the role of liaison between the innate and adaptive immune system. They achieve this by culturing, multiplying and training the immune system. Also found in this group of primary immune treatments with the potential of pairing up with Local Hyperthermia are Natural Killer Cells. An integral part of the innate immune system, they recognise and attack harmful cells in the body. Also included in these complementary treatments is Peptide Therapy. This therapy has the role of activator between specific T-Cells and their ability to recognise and eliminate tumour cells.

Working towards curing tumours and healing the body also takes the input of supportive treatments which help to rebuild health. Although the use of Local Hyperthermia in conjunction with other alternative therapies already mentioned has minimal side effects, the body nevertheless is already in a weakened position brought on by the disease. To help counter these ravages and start on the process of repairing the body, primary supportive treatments are deployed to achieve this objective.

These supportive treatments, whose aim is to rebuild health, will revolve around a personalised anticancer diet. Specifically the Ketogenic Diet which is high on healthy fats and low on carbs and which is the only evidenced-based anticancer diet in the world. As in this diet, and all other alternative therapies, the keyword is personalised. There is no generic integrated cancer treatment. Each patient is unique and has unique needs. This is the point of diversion with traditional oncology with its assembly-line approach to cancer treatment and its three-arrow quiver of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.

Apart from the personalised anti-cancer diet, supportive treatments comprise wellness and education (with a focus on smart choices, herbal remedies and individualised wellness education).

Organ support is also an integral part of supportive treatments and ensures that a patient’s organs are monitored, supplemented and allowed to rest. The fourth mainstay of supportive treatments is known as EWOT, which is an acronym for Exercise With Oxygen Therapy. This is a light physical exercise-based therapy and is used as a platform to oxygenate a patient’s bloodstream. This therapy has a twin purpose. The first is to ensure that cancers do not thrive as they have been shown to have a particular distaste for oxygen-rich environments. The second purpose of this therapy is to prevent cachexia or muscle loss.

In support of wellbeing, and after the primary treatments have been administered, perhaps including Local Hyperthermia, detox treatments which support wellbeing complete the circle of treatments that enhance the performance of each other. Local Hyperthermia should not stand on its own. Detox treatments such as Ozone therapy, Lymphatic therapy, Chelation Therapy and Colonic Therapy are important partners not only to Local Hyperthermia but also the other therapies that have been mentioned. Deep tissue massage, with its ability to relax muscles and instill a sense of well-being is also a crucial component of detox treatments.

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