Immunotherapy Series – Hyperthermia & Its History of Use
How was Hyperthermia originally used as an immunotherapy?
“What medicines do not heal, the lance will; what the lance does not heal, fire will”.
What is Hippocrates saying here? The father of western medicine is reaching out from the pages of history to say that the answer to healing is not surgery, the lance, but the fire, the immune system. I like to call it the fire of Hippocrates.
Let me provide a 21st-century update. The best answer to heal from cancer is not surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or modern immunotherapy drugs, but the immune system, specifically the heat, the fire, and the immune system. There is nothing about surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy drugs that heal. Healing is to make well, whole, complete, or to restore to the original. It is the fire of the immune system that heals.
The word hyperthermia is a combination of two Greek words: hyper (rise) and therme (heat). The goal of hyperthermia is to raise the heat. More than the term hyperthermia, hyperthermia is a procedure that mimics the immune effects of the fever response to raise the heat. The attempt to raise the heat goes back 5,000 years to 3000 B.C.  That is quite the history to raise. That is 5,000 years (at least) of human history that has recognized the healing benefits of heat therapy—hyperthermia.
The historical timeline of hyperthermia is important to understand. What hyperthermia meant and means depends on the moment in time. First and most ancient, hyperthermia was mere heat application. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was fever induction therapy. Today, it is the controlled, mechanical elevation of core temperature to mimic a fever. Though the mechanism of hyperthermia application has changed, the fire of Hippocrates has figuratively burned throughout history.
To better understand hyperthermia, I want to look at the body’s blueprint for hyperthermia—the fever response. Is a fever friend or foe? In today’s conventional medicine dogma, the fever response is the enemy. You could really call this the age of the war on fever. How could I say such a thing? Ever heard of physicians embracing the fever response? Or, a doctor allowing a fever to run its course? Don’t get me wrong, fevers can be serious and need to be monitored and managed appropriately. Still, a controlled, vigorous fever is just the response we want from the body’s defenses if under assault by an invader. A fever is the very evidence of the immune system doing its job. A fever should be welcomed and celebrated. By turning off the fever response, we turn off the immune system’s design to protect the body. There is no better system in the body designed to fight cancer than the immune system. Why turn off the body defenses?
In the age of antibiotics and antipyretics, fevers are not allowed, fevers are not welcomed, fevers are not allowed to run their course. In fact, fevers are feared. You may know antipyretics better as Tylenol and Ibuprofen. Antipyretics reduce fever. These over-the-counter medications also reduce the discomforts associated with the fever. We all know these symptoms too well: the aches, pains, and generalized fatigue associated with the fever. You feel terrible as a result. Instead of the calm before the storm, the fever is the designed storm of the immune system followed by the calm. But what these antipyretics are doing is actually reducing the pro-immune defenses of the body. As a result, the immune system cannot do its job—protect the body against enemies, both foreign and domestic. Is the disruption of this response at the detriment of the body? Some research suggests that antipyretics use with fevers may prolong the recovery time from an illness or worsen the outcome of the illness; translated, Tylenol or ibuprofen will provide short term benefit of fever reduction symptom relief at the expense of prolonged sick time  .
“..disease must be incurable, if it can not be cured by using heat.”
Immune system interference goes far beyond antipyretics. What is the potential effect of immune system interference in the arena of cancer? Definitely, it is more harm than good. It is evident that the age of immune system interference has resulted in a decrease in spontaneous cancer regressions. That really should come as no surprise. What should one expect to occur when we actively interfere with the body’s defense system. No longer do we rely on the immune system to do its job; worse, we interfere and destroy the immune system, yet expect it to do its job. And this is somehow healing? Instead, the answer is surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and now conventional immunotherapy, which is just modern-day chemotherapy. What is disruptive and makes the body un-whole somehow promotes wellness—to be made whole? But, what is healing is labeled alternative or fringe. Everything is upside down.
Spontaneous regression refers to the St. Peregrine tumor in the past—named after Peregrine Laziosi, a 12th-century priest . History records that his leg tumor, likely a sarcoma, spontaneously healed as a result of infection. Today, it is clear that the immune system plays a significant role in these spontaneous regressions of cancer . Activation of the immune system within the tumor microenvironment, resulting in cancer cell apoptosis, appears central to this immunologic tumor regression. Though not common , modern-day interference in the immune defense is the likely result of a decrease in spontaneous cancer regressions. A quote from an article in the Journal of Oncologic Science, Spontaneous tumor regression?, says it all:
“The reason why it is observed less frequently at the present time may be that conventional cancer treatments with immunosuppressive effect are administered more often and early in the course of therapy.” 5
Never has a culture with so much information readily available done so little with it. When we look back on the past cultures, we often turn our nose down at them as primitive, uninformed, and uneducated. Yet, I believe that these cultures of the past, including ancient cultures, were able to do so much more with so very little compared to modern times. Nowhere is this more evident than with fevers.
Ancient cultures actively embraced and cultivated the healing effects of fevers. Ancient Egypt, Rome, and Persia physicians recognized, used, and documented the healing effects of their use of the fever response in ancient writings. Specifically, the ancient Egyptian physician, Imhotep, prescribed fever induction for tumors through the topical application of a poultice of herbs, clay, soil, honey, and other items, followed by an incision through the poultice into the tumor. The sole intention was to induce an immune reaction within the tumor due to the introduction of infection. Fever was the systemic by-product. One of the first publications on breast cancer treatment was the ancient Egyptian Edwin Smith Papyrus from 1700 B.C., which described the use of hot blades and sticks in the treatment of breast cancer 1. Ancient Greeks medicinally used hot baths . Aurelius Cornelius Celsius wrote about the medicinal use of heat therapy,
“If he broke out in a violent sweet, he was considered cured.”
Native Americans embraced the healing effects of heat by using hot sweat baths, hot mud baths, and hot sand . Not to be left out, the ancient Chinese and Japanese cultures very well could have been the first to recognize the healing benefits of mimicking the effects of fever through the elevation in body temperature from heat application. Though not explicitly understood, these ancient cultures’ use of raising the heat within the body was a recognition of the potential healing effects of heat. Heat was an attempt to induce and mimic this natural fever response. Today, it is called hyperthermia.
Dr. Coley and his Coley’s toxins brought this therapy out of ancient writings to more recent application in cancer treatment. Dr. Coley discovered that the more consistent and targeted the fever response (40-41 °C) following Coley’s toxins’ injection, the better the anti-cancer response. Dr. Coley did not shy away from the scientific debate and extensively published his results, including long-term cancer-free remissions for decades. Not five years, which is the standard in “evidence-based” medicine of today, but decades. The longest recorded remission published is 47 years . Now that is a long-term remission. Compare and contrast fiver years with 47 years. More? Depending on the fever achieved, Dr. William Coley increased five-year survival rates from 28-64% in terminal, inoperable cancer patients . For a more significant discussion of Coley’s toxins, check out the previous post here.
History rightly now recognizes the contribution to heat therapies by Dr. Coley and Coley’s toxins but forget about his predecessor. In many ways, Germany has led the way in the treatment of cancer with hyperthermia. The German physician, Dr. Carl D.W. Busch, published his work with fever induction therapy in 1866 , a full 25 years before Dr. Coley’s first publication in 1891. Though their work was separated by 25 years, their goal was the same—spontaneous regression.
Most interesting is that hyperthermia can kill cancer while simultaneously sparing healthy tissue. In 1962, the American surgeon, George W. Crile Jr. showed that temperatures of 42-50 °C could destroy tumors, yet spare health tissues 11. But, it was the same German surgeon, Carl D.W. Busch, in 1866, that was the first to prove that hyperthermia could destroy tumors while sparing healthy tissue. The collateral damage of healthy tissue is at the heart of the side effects that result from chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery—collateral damage.
Ancient cultures recognized the delicate balance between the benefit and danger of fevers. Just as fevers can help the healing process, fevers can cross the line from helpful and healing to detrimental and destructive. The Roman goddess Febris was the god of fever. In ancient tradition, Febris had the power to cause or prevent sickness, disease, and fevers. Sacrifices were made to the goddess Febris to protect against sickness, disease, and fevers. Native Americans recognized spirits as the cause of fevers to inflict harm. These are just a few examples of ancient cultures that recognized much but also misunderstood much. I wonder what future cultures will one day say about us?
Fast forward through history from heat, to fevers, to hyperthermia. The problem with heat application was the limited transfer of heat. External heat from a steam bath, sauna, or tent of any type, will not elevate the internal core temperature to the 40-41 °C. It is just not possible! Some might get some improvement with heat induction therapy, but the vast majority would not. They were on the right track but not quite there yet. They at least recognized the benefits of heat therapy. The problem with fever induction therapy was the unpredictability of the response. Some injections induced fever; others did not. Some patients were healed long-term, others not. Still, others succumbed to an out of control infection and fever. What is needed is a controlled, regulated, mechanical mimic of the fever response, which is a great description of hyperthermia.
Hyperthermia is very limited and relatively new on the landscape of cancer treatment in the U.S. Why? Not quite sure why because the evidence of the medicinal use of hyperthermia alone and especially in adjunct with other cancer therapies is very strong. The growing volume of scientific evidence out of Europe and Asia is closing the door of any doubt. I will discuss this evidence in great detail in upcoming posts, so stay tuned.
Modern-day pioneers have brought hyperthermia to the forefront of cancer treatment. One such colleague and pioneer is Dr. Tsuneo Kobayashi. I encourage you to read a great 2006 article, Medical Maverick Tsuneo Kobayashi, about his career. Rare can someone say they have met a living pioneer. Dr. Kobayashi is one such person. Dr. Kobayashi, an avid reader, and researcher sought the same spontaneous regression that the historical predecessors (Dr. Coley and Dr. Busch) sought and publications referenced. Whether a Japanese streptococcal equivalent of Coley’s toxin, called picibanil, or actual hyperthermia, Dr. Kobayashi has used some form of heat therapy throughout his 35+ year career of treating people with cancer naturally. In reality, it would be better stated that he made patients whole, complete, and restored their wellness—that is called healing. The possibilities of spontaneous regressions are still possible today because of the work of Dr. Kobayashi, Dr. Lodi, and others who reached back to lessons learned from history for the benefit of patients today and in the future.
Dr. Kobayashi’s knowledge and experience in the use of hyperthermia for advanced cancer is second to none. Dr. Lodi has known Dr. Kobayashi for many years. I had the pleasure of getting to learn from him about two years ago. There is one quote Dr. Kobayashi said that stands out to me: “there is no better therapy for bone metastasis, than hyperthermia”. That statement required a lot of confidence and came with a lot of knowledge on his part. When it comes to bone metastasis, conventional medicine does not have much to offer, except for palliative care. It would be hard to find one stand-alone therapy that works better. But, its best work is done in combination with other therapies, as in all cancer therapy. Remember, this is real hyperthermia; not your poor man’s 30-minute steam sauna hyperthermia. Unfortunately, many advertise and call it hyperthermia, but for which no hyperthermia exists. But, there is the word hyperthermia, for keyword purposes. Words can definitely be the source of hot air, but not the core temperatures of 40-41 °C required to achieve anti-cancer therapeutic effects. I tip my hat to the great Dr. Kobayashi and the scientific additions and fantastic work with natural therapies for cancer treatment—in this case, hyperthermia.
Maybe, just maybe, all this information, technology, education, and wokeness does nothing more than elevate ourselves to a level of importance that has no foot in reality. Are we God? Of course, we are not God. Are we gods? No. Or, are we humans that are trying to elevate ourselves to gods? Hmm. History suggests that doesn’t end well.
“If indeed any were so good a physician as to be able to produce fever, it would not be necessary to look for any other remedy in sickness.”
—Ruphos of Ephesus (Greek physician)
The answer to cancer is never to get cancer, but if cancer occurs, the best answer to cancer is the immune system—the immune heat of the Hippocrates hyperthermia fire.
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Dr. Nathan Goodyear is dedicated to disease prevention, disease resolution, and the Wellness Lifestyle through a solution-based, Integrative Medicine approach founded in science. Dr. Goodyear received his Bachelor of Arts from Louisiana Tech University and his Doctor of Medicine from LSU Health Sciences Center.
He is Board Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and served as the Chief Resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Goodyear has practiced Integrative Medicine since 2006. Dr. Goodyear is a Fellow in Functional and Regenerative Medicine and served on the board of the American Functional Medicine Association. Dr Goodyear is licensed by the Arizona Homeopathic and Integrative Medical Board in the State of Arizona. Dr. Goodyear is a published author, Man Boob Nation–an Integrative medicine approach to low Testosterone published in 2014, and Total Testosterone Transformation published in 2017