Mimi Murphy's Medical Breakthroughs: Heating Breast Tumors

Medical Breakthroughs
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New technology has helped a growing number of women have their breast cancer detected early and treated while the cancer is still small. But for those whose cancer is diagnosed late, treatment can be a long and difficult road. Now hot water can make the road a little smoother.

Barbara Link does what she can to keep her garden healthy but her own health wasn't nearly as easy to control.

"It was a large tumor and for awhile they seemed to say it was growing before their eyes,” says Link.

Traditional treatments didn't help so Barbara joined a study of an experimental treatment at Duke University.

"I had aggressive cancer and I needed an aggressive treatment,” says Link.

Patients get chemotherapy with drugs encapsulated inside fat globules called liposomes. The patient lies down on a table placing her breast in a pool of warm water. The warmth draws the liposomes to the tumor, and stimulates release of the drug.

The treatment allowed doctors to deliver thirty times more drugs directly to the tumor. Of 21 women treated all had their tumor growth stopped. Thirty three percent saw their tumors disappear. And in fifty six percent the tumors shrank significantly. For many including Barbara that meant doctors could remove the tumor without removing the breast.

“I was very surprised and very happy,” adds Link.

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