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Heat therapy for cancer may be key to 'Lance Armstrong Effect'

Experts at Johns Hopkins have linked scientific evidence spanning more than 30 years to suggest an explanation for why testicular cancer patients like seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong survive far better than patients with other advanced cancers. Their commentary in the July 26 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals how a simple factor - heat sensitivity - may make testicular cancer cells more susceptible to standard treatments and die off more readily. Heat also may offer a strategy against other malignancies as well, they said.

"If we understand how heat may naturally help kill testicular cancer cells, then perhaps we can make it happen in other solid tumors," said Robert Getzenberg, Ph.D., professor and director of urology research at Johns Hopkins. "More than 80 percent of men with widespread testicular cancer can achieve a cure. In other cancers, the cure rate is far less."

Armstrong's tumor, 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. When his cancer cells spread into warmer regions of the body, the Hopkins scientists believe the temperature boost may have weakened protein scaffolding within the cancer cell's nucleus, making the nuclear DNA more vulnerable to chemotherapy and radiation.

"Heat is at the center of many cellular changes," according to Donald Coffey, Ph.D., who is the Catherine Iola & J. Smith Michael Distinguished Professor of Urology, Oncology, Pathology, and Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at Johns Hopkins. "It drives everything from reproduction to fighting infection, and now we'd like to harness its power to fight cancer." Scientists in the past have observed that fevers accompanying infections sometimes improved the outcome for some cancer patients, but until now, Coffey said, "scientists haven't connected precisely how heat affects the scaffolding and
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Contact: Vanessa Wasta
wastava@jhmi.edu
410-955-1287
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
25-Jul-2006


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