SALT LAKE, Utah (ABC4 News) — It’s been a challenge for a certain cancer treatment to catch on, but it’s gaining traction as more and more doctors and facilities turn to hyperthermia to boost radiation and chemo therapies.
Dave Vincent, Gamma West Cancer Services CEO, ‘there are those who fail their treatment what options do they have?’
Gamma West Cancer Services is the only facility in Utah that uses the high tech hyperthermia machines made right here in the Salt Lake Valley.
Yet, the concept of hyperthermia has been around a very long time
Paul Turner, Pyrexar Medical, ‘hyperthermia has been treating disease before Christ.’
Dr. John Hayes at Gamma West was trained at the University of Utah in hyperthermia. But the art of heating tumors fizzled. Why?
He says to start it takes a lot of skill.
Dr. Hayes, ‘many institutions gave up because it was hard to do.’
You have to insert numerous probes through the body and the tumor, heat them precisely at 110 degrees farhenheit for an hour.
In addition, experts say, doctors aren’t traditionally cross trained like people overseas rather they’re educated in specific disciplines such as radiation.
Professor Peter Wust from Berlin says, while it’s not standard treatment in the U.S. hyperthermia is, in Germany when it comes to certain cancers such as soft tissue sarcoma.
Prof. Wust, ‘this is an accepted treatment in Germany.’
In America, studies on hyperthermia, decades ago, were not controlled but that’s a different story in Europe.
Prof. Wust, ‘of the last century in 88′ and we’ve continued our research until now.’
Experts say we need updated quality controlled studies in the United States.
Another hurdle? Technology had to catch up.
And most important, patients and physicians need to know about this other option, and that it can make radiation and chemo more effective.
Turner, ‘basically it doubles the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy.’
Drew Wilkens understood that when he was diagnosed with a type of throat cancer, because he works for Pyrexar.
‘I pushed hyperthermia because I work for a hyperthermia company.’
But he even received push back and delay of hyperthermia treatment. He wondered if cost reimbursement had to do with it.
Wilkens, ‘we put a needle in you and hang a bag for 4 hours the cost for that is $9600 dollars. A good reason to have poison dripped in our veins destroying our bodies.’
Drew and many doctors say chemotherapy is absolutely necessary for certain cases such as blood cancers.
Drew, is now cancer free but he wonders why hyperthermia isn’t more common.
Dr. Hayes, ‘the best machine in the world to do hyperthermia is made right here in Salt Lake City and sold throughout the world.’
The Huntsman Cancer Institute is a renowned cancer and research facility in the Salt Lake Valley. Its executive medical director released this statement:
“Huntsman Cancer Institute is committed to offering our patients state of the art, evidence based cancer treatment. We have recently established a program for hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemoperfusion (HIPEC) and continue to follow the evidence for other types of hyperthermia treatment – we will be ready to consider these when the evidence is stronger. We continue to direct our research towards immunotherapy and targeted treatments, which are showing tremendous promise for the treatment of many types of cancer.”
John Sweetenham, MD
Huntsman Cancer Institute Executive Medical Director and Senior Director of Clinical Affairs
Facing cancer, taught Drew a valuable lesson.
Wilkens, ‘you have to be your own advocate. You have to be in charge of your life. It’s not a good or bad; it’s your life.’
Vincent, ‘how can you not be a believer in hyperthermia? Anytime we can provide hope and increase quality of life and longevity on Earth and time with their families, I’m all for it.’
The group of people, ABC4 talked with to put this 5 part series together, collectively say they hope many people will know there are options out there that they may not know about. They say research all treatment options available and as a family talk about the options and the best course forward.
Click here for full interview with Gamma West CEO David Vincent
Click here for Drew’s full story: