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San Jose Hospital Pioneering New Treatment That Heats, Kills Cancer Cells

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- A new cancer-fighting strategy that kills deadly cells by raising body temperatures is heating up in the Bay Area.

Whole body hyperthermia is a cancer therapy in which the patient's body temperature is raised high enough to kill cancer throughout the body.

"Cancer cells are not normal.  They don't repair themselves well, and are subject to being destroyed by methods your cells can handle," Dr. James Lilja told KPIX 5.

Doctors at San Jose's Good Samaritan Hospital are using pioneering the research.  The method uses tubes outside the patient's body to heat blood with hot water to well over 100 degrees before it's re-infused.

The therapy lasts about two hours – long enough to kill only the cancer, and a special filtering system keeps the blood from going bad.

"By using this kind of a system we're able to remove, we think some of the unknown dangerous chemicals that are released by the body," Dr. Roger Vertrees said.

Two patients have been treated in the first clinical trial, and have been able to return to work.

"The hope for this therapy is that it becomes a standard modality for treating cancer like chemotherapy, radiation and surgery," Dr. Vertrees said.

Good Samaritan is looking for other patients with ovarian cancer to participate in its clinical trials.


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