DALLAS—Tina Dunlap's life changed five years ago when she was diagnosed with a hard to treat form of breast cancer--drugs that work stopped working.
She learned about hyperthermia therapy--about the time her cancer resurfaced.
"The cancer erodes through the skin and so that becomes pretty problematic in terms of just psychologically, emotionally, certainly physically dealing with the physicality of it," Tina said.
So Tina turned to Dr. Barry Wilcox at Texas Oncology--one of only a handful of doctors in the country using hyperthermia therapy. "We've known for a long time that heat can kill tumor cells and that has been the issue trying to heat tumor cells in a way that doesn't cause burning but at the same time is effective," Dr. Wilcox said.
Microwave technology allows Dr. Wilcox to heat cancerous tumors to 111 degrees Celsius.
Dr. Wilcox said the therapeutic window is narrow--too cold it doesn't work--too hot it can burn the skin--just right and it can increase the effectiveness of other therapies by as much as 30%.
"Heat will kill cancer cells but also heat will increase the vascular flow which then allows the radiation or chemotherapy to work better than it otherwise would," Dr. Wilcox said. "If you're talking about controlling something with radiation by itself in the range of 30% or 40% and you can tell a patient--well now with adding heat we can increase that to 70 plus percent, well that's encouraging and that's a meaningful difference."
Tina had tumors that had popped through the skin treated--and now they're gone.
"I have a wound care specialist who deals with these surface tumors in an area under here where the musculature is involved--she didn't expect that to ever heal up," Tina said.
Tina has a new weapon against cancer. Bring the heat.
"With this kind of cancer," Tina said. "You just sort of kind of keep firing away with whatever ammunition you've got." In this case, it's hyperthermia therapy.