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Whole-body hyperthermia is the controlled elevation of systemic temperature for therapeutic purposes. Historically, this treatment has been used for symptomatic control of many diseases. Recently, the potential therapeutic benefit of whole-body hyperthermia in the management of neoplastic disease has been investigated vigorously. The rationale for improved tumor control is based on heat-induced enhancement of the antineoplastic effects of radiation and chemotherapy. Although the complex biologic interaction of heat and radiation has been studied for many years, chemotherapy combined with hyperthermia has been studied less thoroughly. Despite a lack of adequate long-term laboratory and clinical investigation, use of whole-body hyperthermia with chemotherapy and radiotherapy is a logical and potentially powerful therapeutic strategy for neoplasia.

Relevant issues regarding the application of whole-body hyperthermia with more traditional modes of therapy are being studied in preliminary clinical trials involving dogs and humans. Identification of optimal timing and sequencing of adjunctive therapy, proper cytotoxic drug application, methods to further minimize toxicity, and heat-sensitive tumor types will lead to expanded clinical use of whole-body hyperthermia.

The historical development, clinical rationale, and application of whole-body hyperthermia for the control of disseminated or refractory neoplasia in humans and dogs is reviewed.