Cutting edge technology kills cancer cells

April 17, 2009 10:59:20 AM PDT
In Houston, one scientist is giving her patients an artificial fever to kill pancreatic cancer cells, and she has been able to lengthen the lives of more than half the people who have tried it. People here have a special place in their hearts for Patrick Swayze. After all, he's the nice guy from Houston. And pancreatic cancer is a mean cancer to fight.

"It sits there undetected until the horses are way out of the barn," said Dr. Joan Bull from UT Houston Med School.

Dr. Bull, professor of Oncology, says pancreatic cancer doesn't just hide well. It's hard to kill when you do find it.

"It's a resistant tumor and it appears when it's already a beast," said Dr. Bull.

Dr. Bull has spent years testing heat as a cancer killer. Patients are zipped up and the heat is turned on -- for eight hours they have an artificial fever of 104 degrees.

"We're revving up, and that's what's we're testing in the lab, the person's own immune system response against the tumor," said Dr. Bull.

And she believes the heat treatments enhance their chemotherapy.

Most of the people who have come here with pancreatic cancer are in very late stages with only 2-6 months of life expectancy left but in some cases she has been able to lengthen their lives with heat therapy a year and even longer.

"They're living longer with a better quality of life is very important," said Dr. Bull.

So far she's treated 14 pancreatic cancer patients with heat. But success against an enemy like advanced pancreatic cancer is a very slow process.

For information about the UT Houston Heat Therapy study for pancreatic cancer, Click Here.

Pancreatic cancer also took our beloved Marvin Zindler back in July of 2007.

Zindler was a crusader for Houstonians for decades, battling big business and public officials -- always fighting for whom he called "the little guy."

In the days after his death, MD Anderson Cancer Center created the Marvin Zindler fund for pancreatic cancer research.

If you'd like to donate just Click Here.

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter

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