In the fifth follow-up installment of the ABC story, we see hyperthermia cancer treatment take a foothold in Utah. Gamma West Cancer Services, serving the Intermountain West, starts its thermal oncology group. We hear about their early success with the treatment and their plans to expand the service. If you missed the previous Part 1 • Part 2 • Part 3 • Part 4, you can use the links.
Last year, ABC4 traveled to New Orleans to learn about hyperthermia: a cancer treatment that kills harmful cells with heat. We explored its use throughout the world but found that hyperthermia was not being used in the Intermountain West.
But now, it is.
“Cancer's not a neat word for anybody,” says Terrance Faber.
Faber was diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer one year ago.
“You know, I have aggressive cancer...and whatever we can do to combat that. And hyperthermia apparently is one really big help,” Faber continues.
And now he has that option right here in Salt Lake City. Gamma West Cancer Services is the first facility in Utah to use hyperthermia treatment.
Dr. John Hayes, the president of Gamma West, says, “We have invested space, equipment, personnel...and we would like to become a regional center of excellence for hyperthermia.”
Hayes explained that there is clinical data that shows a benefit when you add hyperthermia to an already prescribed radiation treatment, especially in recurrent cancers.
So, when Faber’s cancer came back, Dr. Hayes added hyperthermia to Faber’s treatment plan.
Dr. Hayes says it works like this: the heat causes more blood to flow into the tissue. That brings more oxygen to the tumor cells trapped inside scar tissue. This makes radiation more effective.
Mr. Faber has plenty of scar tissue from previous treatments.
Our crew was there for Faber’s first hyperthermia treatment.
“Because he's had prior treatment, we're going to give a treatment with extra power, and let's say oomph, to get rid of all this cancer,” Dr. Hayes explains.
Hyperthermia treatments have been around for more than three decades. Just last year, we at Good4Utah showed you how it's being used in Europe. However, many facilities in the U.S. still aren't using it. Many of these places say there is not enough peer-reviewed research yet to prove or disprove its effectiveness.
But Dr. Hayes disagrees.
“With hyperthermia, we have decades-old data, with 15 randomized controlled clinical trials showing a benefit.”
Dr. Hayes says it typically only takes a few days to see a tumor visibly shrink after being treated with hyperthermia.
Both Dr. Hayes and Mr. Faber are optimistic about the future.
“I'm really excited about the way things are going. I'm feeling real good,” says Faber.