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Among breast cancer patients whose cancer has spread to the chest wall, the administration of heat to the chest wall improves the effectiveness of the chemotherapy drug Doxil® (pegylated liposomal doxorubicin), according to study results presented at the 23rd annual Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium in New York.

Hyperthermia involves exposure of parts or all of the body to high temperatures. This form of cancer treatment is usually used in combination with other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Some studies have suggested that hyperthermia may accelerate tumor uptake of chemotherapy drugs such as Doxil. Accelerated uptake may improve the effectiveness of the drug. These findings prompted researchers to conduct a phase I/II clinical trial evaluating hyperthermia in women with recurrent breast cancer that had spread to the chest wall.

Researchers from UCSF Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Francisco evaluated 26 breast cancer patients who had received an average of three prior treatments for their cancer. All women were treated with hyperthermia to the chest wall an hour before administration of Doxil.

Because the hyperthermia device could only cover a specified area of skin, some patients had areas of cancer that did not fit in the hyperthermia field; cancer response to Doxil in these areas was compared to cancer response in areas within the hyperthermia field.

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Overall, hyperthermia appeared to enhance the anticancer effect of Doxil:

  • 54% of patients had cancer that responded to treatment.
  • 15% of patients experienced a complete disappearance of detectable cancer.
  • 38% of patients experienced a partial disappearance of detectable cancer.
  • Areas of the chest wall that did not receive hyperthermia were less likely to respond to Doxil.
  • Hyperthermia did not increase the frequency of adverse treatment effects.
  • The most common adverse effect of treatment was hand-foot syndrome, which affected 46% of patients.

The researchers concluded that hyperthermia to the chest wall appears to significantly improve response to Doxil in breast cancer patients with chest wall metastases. Hyperthermia did not increase the toxicity of treatment. The researchers note that these results warrant further study.

Reference: Park J, Stauffer P, Diederich C, et al. Pegylated Liposomal Doxorubicin plus Hyperthermia for Metastatic Breast Cancer of the Chest Wall. Proceedings from the 23rd annual Chemotherapy Foundation Symposium. November 2005. New York. Abstract #53.