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An investigational medical device for the treatment of late stage lung cancer, pioneered by researchers at University of Kentucky, has been approved for clinical trials by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). UK is the only site in the country approved to test this new treatment on advanced lung cancer patients.

The Exatherm Total Body Hyperthermia System (Exatherm-TBH) was developed at UK in a public-private partnership with Exatherm Inc. The project is supported by grant funding from the National Institutes of Health.

The research team includes Dr. Jeremiah Martin, surgical director of the UK Markey Cancer Center’s Multidisciplinary Lung Cancer Clinic; and Dr. Kevin Hatton, chief of anesthesiology critical care at UK.

“Cancer cells are more susceptible to damage from heat than normal tissue, so the development of a safe method to deliver heat throughout the body may be a key step forward for advanced lung cancer patients,” said Martin.

Whereas most thermal treatments are specific to the area of the body where a tumor is located, UK researchers are examining total body hyperthermia, a treatment utilizing a perfusion circuit that circulates the blood through the patient’s vascular system at a target temperature.

“Patients with advanced lung cancer, who have completed standard therapy and for whom there are no additional conventional options, are invited to learn more about this trial,” Martin said. “This initial safety trial will lay important groundwork for patients with other tumor types in the future.”

The goal in any cancer treatment is to attack the diseased cells and leave the healthy cells alone.  Healthy cells have a signaling mechanism that protects them from increases in body temperature. This mechanism is defective in cancer cells, which the potential new treatment aims to exploit.

The treatment, which lasts approximately four hours under a general anesthetic, uses the Exatherm-TBH System to heat and circulate the blood throughout the body. The device heats the patient’s blood to a temperature of 42 degrees Celsius, or about 107 degrees Fahrenheit.

Because systemic hyperthermia attacks cancer cells throughout the body all at once, the research team hopes the project will lead to a new and safe method for treating patients whose cancer has metastasized through the body.

"If results meet our expectations, the approach would present an advantage over other methods of thermal treatment, particularly in later stages of the disease," said Martin.

Patients who want to find out if they are eligible to participate in this study may visit UKClinicalResearch.com or call the division of UK Cardiothoracic Surgery at 859-323-6494.

Physicians:  to refer a patient, contact Dr. Jeremiah Martin through the UK physician referral service toll free at 800-888-5533 or 859-231-9922.

To learn more about participating in research, including current opportunities at UK and across the country, visit http://www.ccts.uky.edu/ccts/participate-research.

Source: University of Kentucky

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