Combining Electrotherapy & Hyperthermia: Another Approach to Cancer

The use of heat as a cancer treatment dates back to ancient Egypt and Greece. Egyptian scrolls indicate that breast tumors were treated with hot clay, and Greek physicians recommended the use of heat when surgery was not possible. Indian cultures have, and still continue to enforce heat therapy and judging from the studies of modern physicians, the use of high temperatures to destroy cancer cells may be the most significant method of cancer treatment. It has the potential of being far more promising than radiation and chemotherapy.

It has long been known that fever or artificially introduced elevated body temperatures can destroy cancer cells. In fact, benign and cancerous tumor cells are more heat-sensitive than normal cells, say medical researchers and clinicians such as Prof. Xin Yuling, MD and chief of staff of Beijing University and Prof. Douwes MD who heads the St. Georg Clinic in Bad Aibling, Germany.

Hyperthermia or the more modern, localized electrotherapy treatments expose body tissues to temperatures similar to those of fever, and during the past 15 years, hyperthermia has undergone enormous technological improvements. Localized hyperthermia treatment now incorporates radio frequencies and short waves, and this combination is most effective in the treatment of localized tumors and prostatic hypertrophy.

The normal chestnut-sized prostate may become troublesome as early as age 40. First symptoms are frequency of urination, difficulty in starting the stream and difficulty in emptying the bladder. Patients commonly complain about an urge to urinate after having emptied the bladder, and some patients experience bladder pain. At night, the urge to urinate frequently may be less troublesome than prolonged urinary retention. Benign prostatic hypertrophy, a usually nonmalignant prostatic enlargement, occurs in 75% of all males, age 60 and over. The progressive nature of this disease results in continuous enlargement of the gland. Due to an increase in life expectancy, an increasing number of males are afflicted with this problem and in most cases, surgical intervention is used to alleviate the obstruction. Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer and is the second-leading cause of cancer death among American men, behind lung cancer.

Hyperthermia, Prof. Douwes says, is most effectively used in the early stages of prostate disease and should be preferred to surgical intervention, which is not without serious risk. Dr. Douwes who hosted the seminar, Electrochemical Therapy in Onkology, held in Bad Aibling, Germany, is using a new method of localized hyperthermia (ECT), which he considers an effective and much safer treatment than conventional prostatic surgery. The clinic's urologist, Dr. Dorothea Alleman says complications due to ECT treatment are rare and to this day, there are no known mortalities. The success rate for this local hyperthermia treatment is between 70-90% for stage I and II cancers, she says, and this new approach generally avoids progression to the serious cancer stages III and IV. Only local anesthesia is needed, and the therapy involves only 1 to 3 treatments. Hospitalization is not required. In fact, most of Dr. Allemann's patients prefer to stay in one of the many inns or hotels at this spa town and are treated on an outpatient status. According to Dr. Alleman this reduces treatment costs significantly and improves the patients' attitude, "another healing factor that should not be overlooked." Do prostate sufferers feel intimidated by a female urologist? Dr. Alleman says quite to the contrary. During therapy, the patients who rest comfortably in an armchair for a period of one to three hours, depending on the severity of the problem, often engage in conversations. "The fact that I am a female physician who inserts a fine tubing in the urethra is not a hindrance whatsoever," she says. Dr. Alleman explains to patients how a microsensor controls the temperature of the prostatic tissue to 43 to 46 Celsius and she is quick to mention that this painless procedure produces no side effects.

Hyperthermia does not only shrink the prostate, Dr. Alleman says, it also softens the gland. That in itself alleviates many problems associated with prostate disease. In serious cases, where frequent catheterization is required, prostate hyperthermia treatment is known to improve the condition to where catheter drainage is no longer needed. Follow-up visits confirm that for most patients, the treatment results in long-term success.

During the international ECT meeting, which was held September 30 through October 3, clinicians and researchers from China, Hungary, Germany, Italy and Austria exchanged information on hyperthermia treatment of cancer. Attending physicians learned that, in Europe and China, electrochemical treatment is on its way to becoming an accepted treatment for all local tumors, not just prostate cancer.

During this September 1994 seminar, Prof. Dr. Xin Yuling who is regarded as China's foremost surgeon, documented the efficacy of electrochemical treatment on local tumors such as breast cancer and cancer of the esophagus. Associate Prof. Dr. Zhao Fengrui, MD presented impressive data on the clinical efficacy of ECT for liver cancer. Prof. Douwes and his colleague Prof. Andreas Szazs, PhD in physics of the Semmelweis University of Budapest, Hungary, shared information on the uses of electrochemical treatment for bladder and skin tumors.
According to Prof. Szazs, multiple needle treatment provides optimum efficiency, especially when the value of resistance is taken into account. For larger tumors, electrodes are placed in close proximity. Studies by the Chinese indicate that the electrodes are best placed approximately 1-1/2 cm apart. Professor Douwes, in conjunction with Prof. Szazs simplified ECT by developing a computerized instrument that takes into account galvanic principles. The instrument, called MEDICOS 2000, determines the placement of the electrodes. Its greatest advantage rests in its high stability and accuracy as a galvanic power supply. The actual current needed during treatment is based on the tissue resistance and is computed by the instrument, which also establishes safety limits. Localized tumors are destroyed, Dr. Szasz states, simply because cell proteins and resulting cell divisions are affected. The pH in the vicinity of the electrodes is greatly changed, causing an intense alkaline prod uction at the negative electrode where the hydrogen ions are neutralized, and by acidic production at the positive (opposite) electrode. The combination of the chemical and the electrostatic effects due to voltage difference between electrodes effectively polarizes the treated area and ultimately results in the destruction of virulent cancer proliferation, stopping the spreading of infected cells, or metastasis. This approach, scientists say, is an effective treatment of metastasis and is used for preventive purposes as well.

It is not surprising that the Chinese have found a means of improving the efficacy of electrochemical therapy by combining it with herbal and trace element therapy. Prof. Zhou Shu, pharmacologist at the department of Pathophysiology at the Institute of Clinical Medical Sciences, China-Japan Friendship Hospital, Beijing works closely with Prof. Xin Yuling to improve the already successful ECT method. This Chinese team cooperates with Prof. Douwes and his staff and their combined efforts and impressive study results will be presented during the upcoming conference on Electrochemical Therapies and Cancer, which is being held in conjunction with the 1st International Symposium on Trace Elements, Chronic Diseases and Cancer, both to be held in May 1996 at the University of Beijing, China.
Article copyright Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients.
By E. Blaurock Busch

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