Leading Sydney radiation oncologist Michael Jackson is confident oncothermia works, but University of Wollongong researchers are going to help him figure out why.
Associate Professor Jackson is the consulting doctor at the Oncothermia Clinic at Prince of Wales Private Hospital, which was officially opened this month.
The opening marked the culmination of seven years of campaigning by northern NSW woman Jenny Barlow, who discovered the treatment option after losing her husband to cancer.
Prof Jackson said treatments, well established in Europe, started at the Sydney clinic in December with encouraging results.
However, he said, to attract government support and funding to allow more patients to access the treatment, more research needed to be done.
"Oncothermia is a form of hyperthermia or heat treatment. We know that heating cancers makes them more sensitive to radiotherapy or chemotherapy," he said.
"Oncothermia has some effect in killing cells on its own but it's used in combination with radiation or chemotherapy in most cases. In some cases, like Cassie's, [see separate story] where there's not good options for other treatments, it can be used on its own."
Oncothermia patients are placed in a water bed, heated to 30 degrees, to receive the treatment, which works using an electric field.
Prof Jackson and his team from the University of NSW will be working with UOW's Centre for Medical Radiation Physics to conduct research into the treatment.
"We do a lot of work with Professor Anatoly Rozenfeld and his team on the use of radiotherapy devices and we will extend that work to oncothermia," he said. "We want to get some proper published results to give people a better idea of how it works, and how often it works."
Mrs Barlow is ecstatic her hard work has paid off, and is now aiming for a Medicare rebate for the treatment, which costs about $5000 per four-week session.
"My husband died from cancer but his life was prolonged and he gained a better quality of life after we travelled to Ireland for a variation of this treatment," she said.
"So I wanted to give cancer patients in Australia a fourth treatment option, alongside chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. The more combinations of treatment people have, the more chance they have of survival."