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?
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
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
"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."