Boffins at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions have found that heat sensitivity may be the key behind why testicular cancer patients like, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, survive far better than patients with other advanced cancers.
Researchers suggest that heat sensitivity may make testicular cancer cells more susceptible to standard treatments and die off more readily.
Armstrong's tumour, like those of all primary testicular cancer, began in the testes, which are a few degrees cooler than the rest of the body to keep heat-sensitive sperm safe.
Hopkins scientists believe the temperature boost may weaken protein scaffolding within the cancer cell's nucleus, making the nuclear DNA more vulnerable to chemotherapy and radiation when the cancer cells spread into warmer regions of the body.
|Heat is at the centre of many cellular changes.|
"More than 80 percent of men with widespread testicular cancer can achieve a cure. In other cancers, the cure rate is far less," he said.
Dr Getzenberg feels that heat also may offer a strategy against other malignancies as well.
"If we understand how heat may naturally help kill testicular cancer cells, then perhaps we can make it happen in other solid tumours," he said.
Donald Coffey, Ph.D., the Catherine Iola & J. Smith Michael Distinguished Professor of Urology, Oncology, , and Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at Johns Hopkins, said that scientist were now working on ways to harness heat to fight other types of cancer as well.
"Heat is at the centre of many cellular changes. It drives everything from reproduction to fighting infection, and now we'd like to harness its power to fight cancer. Scientists haven't connected precisely how heat affects the scaffolding and might be one of the reasons treatment can cure tumors such as Lance Armstrong's," he said.
Providing scientific evidence for the theory was unrelated study by researchers at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School of men with undescended testes, a fairly common birth defect in which the genitals remain stuck in the pelvis after birth instead of descending into the scrotum.
Theodore DeWeese, M.D., professor and director of the Department of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences, and colleagues state that an examination of the men's sperm showed that the sperm cells' nuclear protein scaffolding, known technically as the nuclear matrix, was also wrecked.
"The warmer region of the pelvis made the nuclear matrix in the cells that make sperm unstable and prone to death, and cancer cells already have unstable nuclear matrices. If we give a cancer cell more heat to completely disrupt its matrix, and then add toxic drugs and radiation, the cancer cell may be so disabled that it won't be able to replicate and will die."
"Once we've devised the best way to deliver heat to cancer cells, we will test the technique in animal models to help define the right temperature and doses of chemo and radiation therapy," he added.
To direct heat only to cancer cells, the researchers are investigating the use of nanoparticles that have an affinity for surface proteins carried by cancer cells. The Hopkins scientists believe that, if injected through the bloodstream, magnetic nanoparticles may be able to reach tumours throughout most of the body. And as long as the nanoparticles penetrate most of the cells in the tumour, the temperature increase will spread to the entire mass.
The report is published in the July 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association
Reminds me of Kanzius and his radio wave machine heating nanoparticles attached to cancer cells to kill them.