Put patients in hibernation to overcome cancer: Drugs ‘could cool body to stop disease’


Doctors could cure cancer by placing individuals in a form of hibernation, according to a leading scientist.

By lowering down the body temperature from the normal 37C (99F) to about 13-15C (55-59F) it is expected that the body functioning would slow down completely.

This would give doctors more time to treat tumours especially when they have spread around the whole body. It can also make treatment more effective because inactive tissues respond better to radiotherapy.

Dr. Marco Durante one of the leading radiotherapy experts said this is the ‘future’ of cancer treatment.

Dr. Durante, of the Trento Institute for Fundamental Physics in Italy, said the purpose was to develop a state similar to hibernation. As there are many cases of humans surviving extreme cold, providing support to the fact that hibernation could be induced with drugs.

About 50 percent of cancer patients has an extreme form of the disease. In most of the cases, it has spread across the body from the original tumour, a process known as metastasis.

Surgery cannot be conducted every time to remove cancer or do radiation in all the affected parts of the body ‘, Dr. Durante told the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Boston.

If you could put the patient into the physiological state you could halt the cancer growth.

It also increases radio-resistance due to which you can treat all the different metastasis without killing the patient.

The experiment has not been conducted in humans. But in 2013 rats, who do not naturally hibernate, were efficiently placed into a ‘synthetic torpor’, which resulted in their body processes to a standstill.

Dr. Durante told: ‘We can stimulate synthetic torpor in rats. You can lower down the body temperature to 13-14C (55-57F).

The rats are still alive. We wake them up and they are still fine. He hopes that within five to ten years this approach will be used in people.

We are expecting that due to this process, it gives us time to conduct all treatments that are necessary to make individual cancer free.’

Professor Peter Johnson, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘The outcomes of an induced hibernation technique on deadly disease like cancer might help or hinder the treatments. There is a need to conduct some careful experiments in the laboratory before we can predict the effectiveness of this treatment on people.’