Hyperthermia, combined with chemotherapy, improves the chances of healing and survival of patients with low-lying, soft tissue sarcomas. At the Annual General Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago, the GSF scientist Prof. Dr Rolf D.
Issels, presented the results of the first, randomised, worldwide phase III study in which the effectiveness and superiority of the combined-therapy methods are proven, in comparison with results from chemotherapy alone. The study of 341 high-risk patients with deep, local sarcomas shows a significant improvement in the response of the tumour and in the survival of those patients who were treated by means of a combination of chemotherapy and of local, deep hyperthermia, in addition to operative removal of the sarcoma. This combined therapy has been applied already to a large number of patients in advance of surgery.
The well respected study results from the Clinical Co-operation Group Hyperthermia, which has existed since 1999 between the GSF – National Research Centre for Environment and Health in Munich-Neuherberg and the Großhadern Medical Centre of the University of Munich. Their spectrum of research extends from clinical analysis of deep hyperthermia for cancer therapy up to biological research in the areas of immunobiology and cell biology. The head of the Clinical Co-operation Group Hyperthermia, Prof. Dr Rolf Issels, has been working at GSF, since the mid-80s, on the use of local, deep hyperthermia as a cancer therapy. From the beginning, tumours of soft tissues and bones, which start from the connective tissue and are called sarcomas, were taken as examples. The scientists were especially interested – together with related biological research - in the question whether certain sarcomas could be better treated with a combination of hyperthermia and other forms of therapy.
In the course of local, deep hyperthermia, tumours are warmed to 40-44° Celsius, with, the aid of electromagnetic waves. At temperatures of 42° C, cells begin to die, on account of the heat. The combination therapy developed at GSF and the Großhadern Medical Centre exploits the fact that tumour cells are more vulnerable at 40° C to the immune system and also to radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
In the past years, the results gained in the treatment of sarcomas have encouraged the research group to apply their knowledge to other forms of tumour. At the present time, within the framework of a “part body hyperthermia” project plan, they are investigating whether the combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy with hyperthermia leads to better treatment results in cases of colon and rectum cancers and of pancreatic carcinoma, as well. Under the guidance of GSF, a “Virtual Institute of Excellence” has been founded between the Clinical Co-operation Group Hyperthermia at the Großhadern Medical Centre and the Medical Clinic Charité Berlin, in order to promote the project plan, which will initially be sponsored for three years by the Initiative and Networking Fund of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. The Scientific – Technical Director of GSF, Prof. Dr Wess, regards this as a successful example of translational research. “The concept of research in co-operation groups together with clinical partners and the creation of clinical research platforms is an essential prerequisite for the prompt application of knowledge from fundamental research to clinical practice and vice versa.”