During active fever therapy the body temperature is increased by administering fever-causing substances (bacterial toxins). Fever itself is not a disease but a symptom and usually has a life-sustaining and health-promoting function. Subsequently, it improves the immune response. Many of the pathogens that the body comes in contact with are counteracted with febrile reactions. Interesting is the observation that cancer patients before the onset of their disease less often experience febrile infections as compared to the average population. Furthermore, studies show that after fever – particularly fever caused by staphylococci – spontaneous tumor regression occurs. Until the introduction of cytostatics in the middle of the 20th Century fever therapy was of significant value in the systemic treatment of cancer.
For which types of tumors is fever therapy used?
Studies report good results with sarcomas, lymphomas, renal cell carcinoma, and ovarian cancers. For breast cancer and colon cancer, too, there is evidence of favorable response with fever therapy.
How is it performed?
In addition to the medical examination and consultation, blood pressure, pulse, EKG and pulmonary (lung) function are measured. A relevant laboratory work-up (thyroid, liver and kidney function, electrolytes, coagulation, blood count, ESR and CRP) takes place. In the days before treatment, the patient should drink a lot and use a light diet. On the morning of the treatment the patient is admitted to the hospital and a pyrogen (fever-causing substance) is intravenously injected. During the treatment the patient also receives intravenous fluids (saline solution, electrolyte solution, etc.). Temperature, pulse and blood pressure are monitored. After the administration of pyrogens, in about 15 minutes to 2 hours, the patient starts to shiver.
This phase usually lasts 10-45 minutes. The temperature then increases to values between 38 to 40° C (100.4 and 104ºF). This generally lasts for 1 – 2 hours. After the fever therapy, the patient is monitored until the next morning and receives electrolytes and any other necessary medications either through the existing IV access or orally. During and after treatment, laboratory tests take place and when needed the patient receives medications (usually with electrolytes).
Contraindications for the active fever therapy are: heart failure, severe heart rhythm disturbances, angina pectoris, recent myocardial infarction, vital capacity less than 60%, acute hepatitis or nephritis, liver cirrhosis or renal failure, tendency to fever-convulsions and epilepsy, brain tumors, cerebral edema, multiple sclerosis, severe cerebral ischemia, thrombosis, thrombophlebitis, hyperthyroidism, Karnofsky index below 60%, cachexia, and pregnancy.
As with naturally occurring fever, the following can take place: general and localized sensation of heat and tightness, sweating, headache, muscle cramps, joint pain, abdominal and limb pain, increased blood pressure, increased pulse rate, heart rhythm disturbances and nausea. These side effects are usually transient and can be mitigated or remedied with medication.