BEMER Electromagnetic Field Therapy Reduces Cancer Cell Radioresistance by Enhanced ROS Formation and Induced DNA Damage

PLoS One. 2016 Dec 13;11(12):e0167931. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0167931. eCollection 2016.


Each year more than 450,000 Germans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer subsequently receiving standard multimodal therapies including surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. On top, molecular-targeted agents are increasingly administered. Owing to intrinsic and acquired resistance to these therapeutic approaches, both the better molecular understanding of tumor biology and the consideration of alternative and complementary therapeutic support are warranted and open up broader and novel possibilities for therapy personalization. Particularly the latter is underpinned by the increasing utilization of non-invasive complementary and alternative medicine by the population. One investigated approach is the application of low-dose electromagnetic fields (EMF) to modulate cellular processes. A particular system is the BEMER therapy as a Physical Vascular Therapy for which a normalization of the microcirculation has been demonstrated by a low-frequency, pulsed EMF pattern. Open remains whether this EMF pattern impacts on cancer cell survival upon treatment with radiotherapy, chemotherapy and the molecular-targeted agent Cetuximab inhibiting the epidermal growth factor receptor. Using more physiological, three-dimensional, matrix-based cell culture models and cancer cell lines originating from lung, head and neck, colorectal and pancreas, we show significant changes in distinct intermediates of the glycolysis and tricarboxylic acid cycle pathways and enhanced cancer cell radiosensitization associated with increased DNA double strand break numbers and higher levels of reactive oxygen species upon BEMER treatment relative to controls. Intriguingly, exposure of cells to the BEMER EMF pattern failed to result in sensitization to chemotherapy and Cetuximab. Further studies are necessary to better understand the mechanisms underlying the cellular alterations induced by the BEMER EMF pattern and to clarify the application areas for human disease.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Damage*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / radiation effects*
  • Electromagnetic Radiation*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Field Therapy / instrumentation
  • Magnetic Field Therapy / methods*
  • Radiation Tolerance / radiation effects*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • Reactive Oxygen Species

Grants and funding

The research and authors were in part supported by the BEMER Int. AG (Liechtenstein) and grants from the Deutsche Krebshilfe (108976 to N.C.), the European Union (RADIATE; GA No. 642623 to N.C.) and the EFRE Europäische Fonds für regionale Entwicklung, Europa fördert Sachsen (100066308). This work was also supported in part by a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD e.V.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.