Heating up tumours could improve cancer treatment

Thu, 12 May 2011
New research suggests that gently heating cancer cells could help improve the effectiveness of drugs designed to destroy them.

Past studies have shown that heating tumours can improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation. However, it has not previously been known why.

But now, a team of Dutch scientists have found that raising the temperature of cancer cells to between 41 and 42 degrees Celsius blocks a key molecule used to repair DNA damage.

When heat is used in combination with a type of drug known as PARP inhibitors, which also prevent DNA damage repair, the DNA in the cancer cells becomes so damaged that they stop growing and die.

Dr Steve Colebrook, clinical project leader at Cancer Research UK's drug development office, said: "This is very interesting research with some exciting implications.

"It's at an early stage but if further research shows heat therapy could be used in this way, promising drugs like PARP inhibitors - or indeed any other therapy which prevents cells repairing their DNA damage - could be used to treat a wider group of patients ."

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