The effects of non-invasive radiofrequency treatment and hyperthermia on malignant and nonmalignant cells

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Sep 3;11(9):9142-53. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110909142.


Background: Exposure of biological subjects to electromagnetic fields with a high frequency is associated with temperature elevation. In our recent studies, we reported that non-invasive radiofrequency (RF) treatment at 13.56 MHz with the field ranging from 1 KeV to 20 KeV/m2 inhibits tumor progression in animals with abdominal tumor xenografts and enhances the anticancer effect of chemotherapy. The RF treatment was followed by temperature elevation in tumors to approximately 46 °C during 10 min of exposure. In contrast, the temperature of normal tissues remained within a normal range at approximately 37 °C. Whether all biological effects of RF treatment are limited to its hyperthermic property remains unclear. Here, we compared how RF and hyperthermia (HT) treatments change the proliferation rate, oxygen consumption and autophagy in malignant and nonmalignant cells.

Methods: In the current study, cancer and nonmalignant cells of pancreatic origin were exposed to the RF field or to conventional HT at 46 °C, which was chosen based on our previous in vivo studies of the tumor-specific RF-induced hyperthermia.

Results: Only RF treatment caused declines in cancer cell viability and proliferation. RF treatment also affected mitochondrial function in cancer cells more than HT treatment did and, unlike HT treatment, was followed by the elevation of autophagosomes in the cytoplasm of cancer cells. Importantly, the effects of RF treatment were negligible in nonmalignant cells.

Conclusion: The obtained data indicate that the effects of RF treatment are specific to cancer cells and are not limited to its hyperthermic property.

MeSH terms

  • Autophagy / radiation effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / radiation effects*
  • Humans
  • Hyperthermia, Induced*
  • Mitochondria / physiology
  • Mitochondria / radiation effects*
  • Radio Waves / adverse effects*