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Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 23:35 GMT 00:35 UK
Heat treatment helps destroy tumours

The treatment worked well with radiotherapy
Heating up cancers as well as giving radiotherapy treatment could be an effective treatment, research suggests.

Cancer: the facts
The technique, called hyperthermia, involves using ultrasound to warm up the cancer to approximately 40 degrees centigrade.

This made the treatment more than 25% more effective on average against a variety of tumours, including bladder, rectum and cervical cancers.

Three years later, survival rates had been doubled in the group given heat treatment as well as radiotherapy, as opposed to those just given radiotherapy.

However, although a few units in the UK offer this sort of treatment, the high costs of equipment may delay its widespread use.

The study, carried out at a number of hospitals in the Netherlands, picked patients whose tumours were "locally advanced" - which meant they had grown beyond their original location.

However, these were not cancers which had yet spread to distant organs.

Increased blood flow

It is thought the heating method works because the blood flow to the tumour is increased. This brings more oxygen to the cancerous tissues, and other studies seem to suggest that this can help other treatments kill cancer cells more effectively.

Professor Hilary Thomas, an expert on cervical cancer from the Royal Surrey Hospital, said: "If there isn't as much oxygen, cancer cells can be far more resistant to both radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

"I think it's going to be expensive - people are going to need to invest in a lot of new equipment, and that is going to slow up the arrival of this treatment.

"But it is quite an exciting finding, and I can't see why I shouldn't be used more widely."

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