Since ancient times, people have used 'heat therapy' to heal all kinds of diseases. The Cleveland Clinic is now using a targeted type of heat therapy called hyperthermia to heal cancer tumors. And it's giving some patients new hope.
Eight years ago Diane Trepka learned she had breast cancer and was given five months to live. She clearly beat those odds, but last year her cancer came back.
"It came back as a rash on the incision site."
It was actually a small cluster of tumors. She'd been told she couldn't have radiation therapy a second time. That's not true. The Cleveland Clinic is now using using a treatment called hyperthermia for patients with recurrent cancer like Diane.
"We utilize this in conjuction with radiation when we're trying to maximize the effect in a local area of concern," says Dr. Justin Juliano, a radiation oncologist.
The device is placed over Diane's tumor site and emits targeted and controlled heat, about 106 degrees.
The heat actually kills some tumor cells, but the main purpose is to get blood and oxygen to the tumor site. That makes radiation work better.
"Where I was after four and half to five months of chemotherapy, where the tumors started to fade, I was there in eight treatments. I could see the fading process."
Diane and her husband Jim are amazed and instead of treatable, her doctors are using a new word.
"Our goal is to eradicate."
Hyperthermia is still in clinical trials and not yet available in eastern Iowa, including University Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City and Mayo Clinic. It is almost always used with other forms of cancer therapy.
Online Producer: Mike Verlo