January 25, 2015

   A Publication of the James Buchanan Brady
   Urological Institute Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

Volume III, Winter 2007

“Lance Armstrong Effect” Gives a New Weapon Against Advanced Cancers—Heat

They call it the "Lance Armstrong Effect," and it's a phenomenon that has fascinated Donald S. Coffey, Ph.D., the Catherine Iola and J. Smith Michael Distinguished Professor of Urology, for years. How is it that a man with very advanced cancer—with pieces of tumor infiltrating his brain, liver, and elsewhere — could be treated with such astounding success that he could go on to win the Tour de France — seven times?

“Raising the temperature of
cancer cells makes them
much more susceptible to all
forms of therapy.”

Coffey, with colleagues Theodore L. DeWeese, M.D.,Chairman of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Science, and Robert Getzenberg, the Donald S. Coffey professor of urology (see story) believe the key to the "Lance Armstrong effect" has to do with heat—specifically, a concept they call Temperature-Enhanced Metastatic Therapy (TEMT). Their work on this — and how it may be applied to other diseases, such as prostate cancer — was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"The testes typically exist at a temperature much cooler than the rest of the body," says Getzenberg. "If normal testicular cells move up into the body, when they reach the normal body temperature, they cease to function." And this may explain why testicular cancers are so sensitive to therapy: Because testicular cancer cells are already more sensitive to the body's normal heat, when they spread from the testicles to the rest of the body, they're more vulnerable to treatment, and more easily killed.

"We have known for years that raising the temperature of cancer cells makes them much more susceptible to all forms of therapy — chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy," says Getzenberg. "The organization of the DNA in the cancer cells is altered, and an instability appears to develop in the cells' nuclear structure." The trick now is to apply this concept, using new forms of technology, to other types of cancer. "The goal is to warm the metastatic sites in a tumor-specific manner, to make them more susceptible to chemotherapy or radiation therapy. We are currently doing additional studies to move this treatment into the clinic as quickly as possible. This new way of thinking about treating advanced cancers opens doors into approaches that we've never tried."



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