Accurate Three-Dimensional Thermal Dosimetry and Assessment of Physiologic Response Are Essential for Optimizing Thermoradiotherapy

Mark W. Dewhirst, James R. Oleson, John Kirkpatrick, Timothy W. Secomb

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Numerous randomized trials have revealed that hyperthermia (HT) + radiotherapy or chemotherapy improves local tumor control, progression free and overall survival vs. radiotherapy or chemotherapy alone. Despite these successes, however, some individuals fail combination therapy; not every patient will obtain maximal benefit from HT. There are many potential reasons for failure. In this paper, we focus on how HT influences tumor hypoxia, since hypoxia negatively influences radiotherapy and chemotherapy response as well as immune surveillance. Pre-clinically, it is well established that reoxygenation of tumors in response to HT is related to the time and temperature of exposure. In most pre-clinical studies, reoxygenation occurs only during or shortly after a HT treatment. If this were the case clinically, then it would be challenging to take advantage of HT induced reoxygenation. An important question, therefore, is whether HT induced reoxygenation occurs in the clinic that is of radiobiological significance. In this review, we will discuss the influence of thermal history on reoxygenation in both human and canine cancers treated with thermoradiotherapy. Results of several clinical series show that reoxygenation is observed and persists for 24–48 h after HT. Further, reoxygenation is associated with treatment outcome in thermoradiotherapy trials as assessed by: (1) a doubling of pathologic complete response (pCR) in human soft tissue sarcomas, (2) a 14 mmHg increase in pO2 of locally advanced breast cancers achieving a clinical response vs. a 9 mmHg decrease in pO2 of locally advanced breast cancers that did not respond and (3) a significant correlation between extent of reoxygenation (as assessed by pO2 probes and hypoxia marker drug immunohistochemistry) and duration of local tumor control in canine soft tissue sarcomas. The persistence of reoxygenation out to 24–48 h post HT is distinctly different from most reported rodent studies. In these clinical series, comparison of thermal data with physiologic response shows that within the same tumor, temperatures at the higher end of the temperature distribution likely kill cells, resulting in reduced oxygen consumption rate, while lower temperatures in the same tumor improve perfusion. However, reoxygenation does not occur in all subjects, leading to significant uncertainty about the thermal–physiologic relationship. This uncertainty stems from limited knowledge about the spatiotemporal characteristics of temperature and physiologic response. We conclude with recommendations for future research with emphasis on retrieving co-registered thermal and physiologic data before and after HT in order to begin to unravel complex thermophysiologic interactions that appear to occur with thermoradiotherapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1701
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022


  • biomarker
  • hyperthermia
  • hypoxia
  • local tumor control
  • oxygen consumption rate
  • perfusion
  • radiation therapy
  • reoxygenation
  • thermal dosimetry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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