The idea of heating a tumor to make it more vulnerable to radiation treatment has had appeal for decades. But tests in the early 1990s yielded negative or inconsistent results. In Europe, the methods for this tricky procedure have improved since then and test results have shown promise. Still, the combination of procedures has been used sparingly in the United States.
In a new U.S. study, researchers have demonstrated that when tumors were kept warmer than 40°C for at least an hour after radiation treatment, they shrank significantly more than did irradiated tumors that weren't heated.
Scientists at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., identified 109 patients who had at least one tumor within 3 centimeters of the skin surface. Most were patients whose breast cancer had recurred after surgery. Other participants had melanoma or head-and-neck cancer that had spread. All the volunteers were scheduled to receive radiation for at least one tumor, deemed inoper