Unlocking the Potential of Cold: Revisting Hypothermia as a Promising Frontier in Cancer Treatment

Health, November 25, 2023

In a world where ancient wisdom meets cutting edge science the potential benefits of cold exposure in the realm of cancer treatment have been overlooked. Read on as I delve into the forgotten potential of cold as a complementary, cost free, treatment of cancer

The Edwin Smith Papyrus is the oldest known book on medical science written around 2000-2500BC during the pyramid age. It excluded the use of magical and religious healing practices and was based on observations. This book is the earliest evidence of the use of cold to treat disease. 1000 years later the ancient Greeks concluded that areas in the body with excessive heat was the cause of the issue. Hippocrates noted the analgesic benefits of cold and stated "water can cure everything". Later the Hippocratic school of medicine used whole body cooling techniques to treat systemic disease.

Cold water immersion was commonly used by the Roman physician Cladius Galen to treat fevers and this practise was used right up to the 1500's. Many ancient Mesoamerican civilisations such as the Aztecs and Zapotecs believed in duality. They believed a healthy body required an equilibrium of hot and cold, and an excess would allow a disease to proliferate. Cancer is considered a hot disease with cold being an effective treatment.

In 1778 the medical student James Currie addressed the Royal Medical Society of Edinburgh on "What are the effects of cold on the living body?" His subsequent studies were important as he described that cold had stimulant and sedative effects in humans. Importantly his studies formed the basis of peripheral vasodilatation upon thermoregulation and are still used today with preop patients and decreasing the heart rate. in the 19th C James Arnott with John Bennet pioneered that cold application could retard the advancement of cancerous growth. They carried out experiments using iced salt solutions to freeze advanced tumors and showing tumor regression and observed that pain relief was more efficient that the use of opium with fewer side effects - "....destroying the vitality of the cancer cell is not only calculated to prolong life for a great period but may also...in the early stages of the disease exert a curative action."

The first methodological studies of hypothermia in cancer were carried out by Dr. Temple Sedgwick in 1919. He investigated the effects of low temperature on cellular cancer growth. His hypothesis checked out - he observed cold affected undifferentiated malignant cell differentiation. His studies also showed the healthy cells had greater cold tolerance than malignant cells. Based on these observations Dr. Fay in 1938 began human trials. Patients with terminal cancer exposed to surgical and radiation treatments given a life expectancy of only a few weeks were given Dr. Frays whole body hypothermia techniques and decreased core temp to 32 degrees. He recorded 95.7% pain reduction and a drop in mortality to 10%! Patients not only survived longer but also had a better quality of life than predicted.

Dr. Fay was the first to demonstrate that hypothermia reduced inflammation, swelling, cleared infections (without antibiotics), and impeded human malignant cellular metabolism and growth. When applied locally hypothermia led to tumor regression in cutaneous cancer metastasis.

More recent studies suggests that important factors in the tumorigenic process are affected by cold. Cell proliferation and cell cycle progression slow with exposure to cold as a result of impaired polyunsaturated fatty acids which disturbs the membrane lipid composition. Also human tumor biopsies exposed to cold showed cellular changes affecting tumor cells at a comparable rate to those exposed to radiation. Cold exposure has been shown to induce brown fat activation which competes and deprives cancer cells of glucose, inhibiting tumor growth in multiple cancer mouse models. Also metastasis success depends on the ability of the cancer cells to stick and establish secondary tumors. In testing mild hypothermia was found to prevent the adhesion greatly limiting migration and metastasis.

in 1934 Porfiry Ivanov believed that exposing himself to cold, fasting, and meditation cured his cancer - as it "throws hormone of health into the body, and mobilises the body defenses." Today the Wim Hof method follows similar principles with the combination of cold exposure, meditation, and hyperventilation breathing techniques.

Throughout history, various ancient civilizations embraced the perceived healing properties of cold, laying the groundwork for its potential therapeutic use in addressing conditions such as cancer,and other diseases. Despite promising results in treating a range of ailments, including cancer, lifespan extension, and inflammatory conditions, the specific mechanisms by which cold exposure and hypothermia impact cancer prevention, progression, and treatment remain poorly understood. While extensive experimental research has been conducted using animal models, the application of hypothermia in both basic research and clinical cancer treatment has been relatively overlooked in contemporary times possibly due to the impossibility of creating a patent and an inability to regather research expenditure. As such, further scientific exploration is needed to fully grasp the role of hypothermia and its mechanisms of action in cancer treatment. Revisiting the potential health benefits of cold, hypothermia, and temperature modulation is crucial, and may pave the way for the future application of cryotherapy, either independently or in conjunction with established therapies in the treatment of cancer.


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