Hyperthermia (HT)

Hyperthermia is a form of therapy where heat is used to enhance effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy and to destroy tumors.  Recent randomized clinical trials have clearly demonstrated the benefit of adding hyperthermia to radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy for the treatment of recurrent breast cancer, melanoma, head and neck cancer, cervix, and other sites of locally advanced or recurrent cancers.  Hyperthermia is especially useful for re-treatment of previously radiated sites.  Our faculty and staff are experienced and internationally recognized experts in the field of hyperthermia and radiation therapy.  Our comprehensive clinical service has state-of-the-art multi-modality technologies that allow us to selectively tailor the hyperthermia treatment to patient-specific requirements.  External applicators are used to heat superficial tumor to approximately 8 cm deep.  Interstitial and endocavity applicators can be used for deep-body sites treated with HDR brachytherapy.

Hyperthermia is most often used to treat tumors that are close to the surface of the body. A special device called a surface applicator is applied to the region of the tumor. That area is heated to a temperature of 43oC (109oF) for approximately one hour. Hyperthermia treatments are given within one hour of radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Hyperthermia can also be used to treat deeper tumors when combined with high dose rate brachytherapy (HDR). The HDR catheters are used for internal radiation treatments and for temperature measurements.

Conditions Treated

  • Recurrent breast cancer
  • Locally advanced breast tumors
  • Melanoma
  • Locally advanced cancers of the uterus, cervix and prostate
  • Neck tumors
  • Advanced, persistent tumors
  • Large, bulky tumors


  • Active hyperthermia program since 1986
  • Multi-modality, state-of the art equipment
  • Both microwave and ultrasound treatment procedures available
  • Interstitial devices for conformal hyperthermia with HDR brachytherapy
  • Nursing staff with experience for re-radiation and hyperthermia
  • First North American Phase III trial to demonstrate survival benefit of hyperthermia and radiation was performed at UCSF for treatment of brain tumors
  • Dedicated staff for comprehensive QA and consistent treatment
  • Only NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center with multimodality hyperthermia in the western United States.

Hyperthermia Equipment and Technology

  • Multiple element ultrasound arrays for intensity-modulated conformal hyperthermia  
  • Single aperture and multiple element microwave array applicators
  • Controlled hyperthermia of superficial tumors up to 8 cm depth
  • Interstitial microwave antennas for combining hyperthermia with HDR brachytherapy
  • Catheter-based ultrasound technology for 3D conformal hyperthermia with HDR brachytherapy
  • Ultrasound imaging for on-site tumor depth and probe measurements
  • Treatment Planning

Our hyperthermia team tailors treatment to meet the needs of each individual patient.


Curent Clinical Trial: 08992

Research: Focal Hyperthermia



Hyperthermia Team

Joe Hsu, MD Chris Diederich, PhD