How heat helps kill cancer

Local hyperthermia boosts the effectiveness of cancer treatments by preventing DNA repair in tumor cells

Megan Scudellari
May 8, 2011
Hyperthermia is occasionally used to augment the efficacy of certain cancer therapies, but how heat helps has been a mystery. Now, researchers have uncovered the details of one likely mechanism -- heating a tumor inhibits homologous recombination, a DNA repair system, so cancer cells cannot mend DNA damaged by radiation or chemotherapy.
Patient being treated with hyperthermia
linkurl:National Cancer Institute, Mike Mitchell;
The finding, linkurl:published today; in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that the addition of heat may expand the use of promising cancer drugs targeted to cells defective in homologous recombination."The findings reported are very important," said linkurl:George Iliakis,; who studies cellular responses to DNA damage at the University of Duisburg-Essen Medical School and was not involved in the research, in an email to The Scientist. If confirmed with future tests, he added, "they promise to revive the field of hyperthermic oncology -- a field of...
Krawczyk, P.M., et al., "Mild hyperthermia inhibits homologous recombination, induces BRCA2 degradation, and sensitizes cancer cells to poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 inhibition," PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1101053108, 2011.