The “Lance Armstrong effect” does not describe an ability to win multiple, gruelling Tours de France. Rather, it refers to the many patients, who, like Armstrong, have been successfully treated for their advanced metastatic testicular cancer. US researchers now suggest that a better understanding of this “effect” could help patients with other types of disseminated solid tumours, who generally do not do as well. They suggest the core reason for the effect may lie in the unusual thermal hypersensitivity of normal testicular germ cells and cancerous testicular cells — both have a propensity to die when at normal, instead of below normal, body temperature. The researchers also point out that the hyperthermia of fever can give a transient boost to immunity. Although hyperthermia, a very old form of cancer therapy, is not widely accepted as a cancer treatment, new types of thermal delivery systems are inviting another look. Targeted induced hyperthermia, achieved, for example, by applying external magnetic fields to heat up iron-containing nanoparticles or liposomes attached to tumour cell surface markers might help to enhance tumour responses to other cancer therapies.
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