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What is oncothermia?

25 Jan 2019

This week, an explanation of this exciting new therapy

What is oncothermia?

Oncothermia is also known as ‘modulated electro-hyperthermia,’ or m-EHT. It is a widely used and researched method of selectively targeting cancer cells on a cellular level by passing both focused and controlled heat, and an electric field, through cancer tissue.

Oncothermia can be used with all stages of cancer. It is mainly used with metastatic cancer and advanced solid cancers that are inoperable.

How does it work?

Simply put, an electric field is generated by two electrodes. Since cancer cells have a higher conductivity than normal cells, the electric field flows predominantly through the cancer cells, that is, it flows selectively through cancer cells. The combination of deep heat and the electric field leads to changes in the cancer cell membrane which in turn triggers cell death (known as apoptosis).

The area of the body affected by the tumour is positioned between the two electrodes. The controlled heat and electric field that flows between them is maintained in the cancer tissue for 60 minutes (sometimes longer). This leads to changes in the membrane surrounding the cancer cells and numerous biological effects including:

  • Reduction of new blood vessel formation by cancer cells (known as angiogenesis);
  • Formation of heat shock proteins on the surface of cancer cells that activate the immune system to recognise the cancer cells;
  • Activation of tumour suppressor genes such as p53


The immune response to oncothermia has been shown to lead to an ‘abscopal effect.’ The abscopal effect refers to a phenomenon of tumour regression at a site distant from the primary site of therapy (indicating that the therapy has not only a local effect but also a distant effect, via the immune system ie. an immunomodulatory effect). That is, therapy at the site of the primary tumour could lead to an effect on distant metastases as well.

Research shows that oncothermia also enhances the effects of chemotherapy and reduces the risk of resistance to chemotherapy drugs.

How is oncothermia different to other types of hyperthermia?

There are differences between oncothermia and classical hyperthermia at both cellular and physiological level.

In traditional hyperthermia, both cancer tissues and healthy tissues are uniformly heated. The temperature difference between cancer tissues and surrounding healthy tissue is minimal. Whilst the high temperature does not cause damage to healthy cells, the energy is spread over both cancer cells and healthy cells.

In oncothermia, the electric field and resulting heat are focused within the cancer cells.

Oncothermia results in most of the heat energy being transferred directly to the tumour. The temperature of the surrounding healthy tissue increases only very slightly.

Selective absorption

The heat used in oncothermia is absorbed selectively by cancer cells. The surrounding healthy tissue typically remains untouched and retains its normal temperature. Due to the focused energy flow of oncothermia, more than 95% of the energy dose is absorbed into the tumour. Other classical hyperthermia systems may use higher temperatures, but this does not necessarily translate into higher heat generation within the tumour itself. It is the efficiency of oncothermia at generating a high heat selectively within tumour tissue that makes it more effective.

In other words, whilst traditional hyperthermia focuses on temperature, oncothermia works by controlling the absorbed energy, ie. the heat, within the tumour.

In addition, the efficiency of the oncothermia system means that beneficial effects are produced even with lower temperatures than those used by classical hyperthermia systems.

The cell-destruction ability of oncothermia is three times higher than that of conventional hyperthermia at the same 42°C temperature

For which types of cancer can oncothermia be used?

Oncothermia can be used with all stages of cancer although its main use is with advanced solid cancers that are inoperable, as well as with recurrent cancer and metastases.

Data is available on the use of oncothermia in many types of cancer such as the following, including advanced cases with metastases:

  • Lung cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Hepatocellular (liver) cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Malignant melanoma
  • Breast cancer
  • Renal cell (kidney) cancer
  • Oesophageal cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Squamous cell cancers of head and neck
  • Astrocytomas and glioblastomas


How effective is it?

Published data (see references below) shows that, when used as a complementary therapy along with traditional medical therapies, oncothermia can significantly improve patients’ conditions, prolong survival and enhance quality of life.

Research shows that oncothermia has numerous biological effects including influencing the immune system to recognise cancer cells, preventing cancer cells from producing new blood vessels, reactivating tumour suppressor genes such as p53 and enhancing the effects of conventional treatments.

With its unique combination of electric field and heat, oncothermia has been used with encouraging results in tumours that are in constant motion (such as lung cancers), in regions with high levels of blood flow (such as the liver) and in regions with high levels of air circulation (lungs).

Are there any side effects?

Oncothermia is an easy to use, safe, non-invasive method that can be used for any stage of cancer and with no serious reported side effects.

Data on hundreds of thousands of applications of oncothermia indicate the following general rates of side effects:

  • Local redness: <8%
  • Adipose (fatty tissue) burn: <3%
  • Skin burn: rare


Who is using oncothermia now?

Oncothermia is used in 32 countries worldwide, mainly in Europe. It is used both in conventional cancer centres and in integrative clinics.

Oncologists present their data and experience with oncothermia at international hyperthermia conferences such as the International Clinical Hyperthermia Society.

Data and research is published in the oncothermia journal three times a year.

Quantum Clinic Is the only clinic offering oncothermia in the UK.

For more information and a free 20 minute Skype/telephone consultation, contact Quantum Clinic via the details below:

01825 841 155


The safety and pharmacokinetics of high dose intravenous ascorbic acid synergy with modulated electrohyperthermia in Chinese patients with stage III-IV non-small cell lung cancer.

Point to note: Higher serum concentrations of vitamin C were obtained with simultaneous Oncothermia therapy.

Modulated Electrohyperthermia in Integrative Cancer Treatment for Relapsed Malignant Glioblastoma and Astrocytoma: Retrospective Multicenter Controlled Study.

Upregulation of heat shock proteins and the promotion of damage-associated molecular pattern signals in a colorectal cancer model by modulated electrohyperthermia.

Treatment outcome analysis of chemotherapy combined with modulated electro- hyperthermia compared with chemotherapy alone for recurrent cervical cancer, following irradiation.

In vitro comparison of conventional hyperthermia and modulated electro-hyperthermia.

Electro-hyperthermia up-regulates tumour suppressor Septin 4 to induce apoptotic cell death in hepatocellular carcinoma.

Combined treatment with modulated electro-hyperthermia and an autophagy inhibitor effectively inhibit ovarian and cervical cancer growth.

Comparison of biological effects of modulated electro-hyperthermia and conventional heat treatment in human lymphoma U937 cells.

Modulated electro-hyperthermia enhances dendritic cell therapy through an abscopal effect in mice.

Modulated electro-hyperthermia induced loco-regional and systemic tumor destruction in colorectal cancer allografts.

Oncothermia: a new paradigm and promising method in cancer therapies.

Current status of Oncothermia therapy for lung cancer.

Hyperthermia versus Oncothermia: Cellular Effects in Complementary Cancer Therapy.

Clinical and economic evaluation of modulated electrohyperthermia concurrent to dose- dense temozolomide 21/28 days regimen in the treatment of recurrent glioblastoma: a retrospective analysis of a two-centre German cohort trial with systematic comparison and effect-to-treatment analysis.

Immune effects by selective heating of membrane rafts of cancer-cells.