CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--Treating breast cancer with a type of heat therapy derived from MIT radar research can significantly increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy, according to results from the fourth clinical trial of the technique reported online Nov. 25 in the journal Cancer Therapy.
In this study, large tumors treated with a combination of chemotherapy and a focused microwave heat treatment shrunk nearly 50 percent more than tumors treated with chemotherapy alone. The microwave treatment is based on technology originally developed at MIT in the late 1980s as a tool for missile detection.
It appears that heating the tumors drastically increased the effectiveness of the chemotherapy, said Dr. William C. Dooley, director of surgical oncology at the University of Oklahoma and the principal investigator of the study. The tumors shrank faster and died faster using the additional microwave hyperthermia on top of the chemotherapy.
According to the National Cancer Institute, some 178,000 women and 2,000 men were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. An estimated 40,000 women and 450 men will die of the disease this year.
In the latest clinical trial, fifteen patients received two microwave heat treatments, known as thermotherapy, along with four rounds of chemotherapy before surgery. The goal was to shrink tumors sufficiently to enable a breast-conserving lumpectomy procedure instead of the expected, and more invasive, mastectomy. Surgeons concluded that fourteen of the tumors shrunk enough for this to be possible.
In 1990, Dr. Alan J. Fenn, a senior staff member at MITs Lincoln Laboratory, adapted the thermotherapy treatment from a system that used focused microwaves to detect missiles and block out interfering enemy signals.
Its a very simple idea that can be applied to the treatment of many different cancers, including breast cancer, Fenn said.
The microwaves, delivered by two applicators placed n
|Contact: Elizabeth Thomson|
Massachusetts Institute of Technology