NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (ABC 4 UTAH) – The US tops the world in medical research, but a study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association argues our nation’s lead is slipping away to Asia and Europe. In the third part of our series, “Turning up the Heat on cancer,” we take a look at the hyperthermia therapy work being done abroad and why the US is now lagging behind on hyperthermia therapy.
Take a look at seven-year-old Anna Vaprova with her Aunt Ola Synder.
“She was always very cheerful, always had a zest for life, very energetic little girl. In fact, she was nicknamed a steadfast little tin soldier,” said Ola Snyder, the aunt of a hyperthermia patient.
We spoke to Ola via Skype. While Anna is in Russia with the rest of her family. Family who heard devastating news about an 18-month old Anna back in 2009.
“It’s a mixed Sacrococcygeal which is a type of germ cell tumor involving the yolk sack which is something she was born with that nobody was aware of,” said Synder.
Cancer began ravaging Anna’s tiny frame. She was fraile, sick, and dying. Searching for answers, Ola finally got a call from a pediatric oncologist.
“To hear the doctor tell me on the other end get your niece here I think I can help. It was just mind blowing,” said Snyder.
They traveled to Germany for hyperthermia treatment.
“We saw tumor shrinkage that made it possible to resect this tumor completely,” said University of Dusseldorf Pediatriac Oncologist Dr. Ruediger Wessalowski.
University of Dusseldorf Pediatriac Oncologist Dr. Ruediger Wessalowski used hyperthermia on Anna.
“This combined treatment facilitate a long term remission in this girl,” said Dr. Wessalowski.
Not just in Germany, but success in China, too, especially with metastatic breast cancer patients.
“When she came to us first she had to use wheelchairs and after treatments she could walk on crutches and she could carry heavy things by herself and finally she could drive anywhere. So the treatment helped her return to normal life,” said Second Affiliated Hospital of Dalian Medical Dr. Jinghua Sun.
Second Affiliated Hospital of Dalian Medical Dr. Jinghua Sun believes after decades of research, hyperthermia is a confirmed, successful method of treatment.
“In the hospital where I work, we have carried out the hyperthermia since the end of last century,” said Dr. Sun.
Director of Oncology for the government of Dominika and Professor of Oncology at the University School of Medicine Dr. Kamal Malaker has taken hyperthermia across the globe.
“The data is there. The science is there. No question,” said Director of Oncology for the government of Dominika and Professor of Oncology at the University School of Medicine Dr. Kamal Malaker.
Malaker has taught and researched hyperthermia in England, Canada, the United States, and now Dominika; the poorest nation of all his stops.
“There’s nothing called hyperthermia. There’s no knowledge of hyperthermia, so I want to introduce that,” said Malaker.
Doctors from across the globe came to New Orleans to talk about hyperthermia therapy. It’s a treatment that isn’t even greatly used in the US.
“Some of the well done studies done in the US, Canada, and Europe show convincing evidence that this works. And it works very well,” said Texas Oncology Partner & Chief of Radiation Oncology at Baylor University Medical Center Dr. Barry Wilcox.
Texas Oncology Partner & Chief of Radiation Oncology at Baylor University Medical Center Dr. Barry Wilcox believes in hyperthermia therapy. Many of his american colleagues, not so much.
“In my practice in Texas, it’s paid for by most private insurances. It’s paid for by medicare and in selective instances by medicaid. So access is the bigger problem. People willing to do it and people doing it,” said Dr. Wilcox.
Without it, Ola says her niece Anna wouldn’t be here.
“I would love to see it more widely used. I know there are instances out there in this wide world, as rare as it is, I know there are children out there that are probably dying from this after they’ve already exhausted all the other options,” said Snyder.
Seven-year old Anna is 100-percent cancer free. Her family credits hyperthermia therapy for giving her life back. Tomorrow night at ten, in the final story in this special report, Good 4 Utah’s Nadia Crow asks why we’re not seeing hyperthermia along the Wasatch Front.