Testicular cancer feels the heat
Scientists have suggested a reason why treatment for advanced testicular cancer produces such positive results compared to other forms of cancer.
The testicles are naturally maintained at a few degrees cooler than the rest of the body in order to protect heat-sensitive sperm.
The scientists, writing in a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggested that cancer cells which spread from the testicles into warmer areas of the body may have their internal protein structure weakened by the heat change, leaving them more vulnerable to chemotherapy and radiation.
"Heat is at the centre of many cellular changes," said professor Donald Coffey, of the John Hopkins University in the US.
"It drives everything from reproduction to fighting infection, and now we'd like to harness its power to fight cancer."
The study draws on research which showed that sperm cells exposed to the normal temperature of the body in the pelvis experience a rapid degrading of their internal structure.
This protein structure - known as the nuclear matrix - lies at the heart of all cells and is known to be sensitive to changes in temperature.
The researchers said that they are in an early-stage of exploring effective methods to target heat to other types of cancer cells without damaging surrounding tissues.
One suggestion is to combine a sort of heat therapy with nanotechnology. Ed Yong, cancer information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: "If cancer cells can be shown to be susceptible to higher temperatures, heat therapy may well become an option for treating cancer patients.
"To be effective, the heat must be targeted to cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. Nanoparticles could provide a way of doing this."