Orange County Immune Institute
This outpatient clinic was founded in 2000 by Fereshteh “Ferre” Akbarpour, MD and is administered by her husband, Iraj Kiani. She works with her sister, Roshi Akbarpour, MD. I visited them soon after they established their facility and have followed up with periodic visits as well as frequent phone calls and emails. I believe this is one of the most credible outpatient facilities offering intensive complementary care to cancer patients. One unique feature of OCII (and emblematic of its approach) is the close working relationship it maintains with board-certified radiation and medical oncologists. This is a guarantor that patients’ treatment will truly be integrative (in fact and not just in name).
OCII maintains good relations with Medical Oncology Care Associates in Orange, CA. Its oncologists are comfortable working with CAM therapists and their patients.
Outpatient treatment at OCII takes place five days a week, Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 4 pm. It consists of the following modules: (1) lymphatic drainage (massage); (2) sauna; (3) intravenous treatment that is customized to each patient, based on the blood test results; (4) supplement treatment (see below); and heat therapy/hyperthermia. This is either whole body hyperthermia in the Smarty® Far Infrared Dome Sauna, or local hyperthermia with the Matrix MMR 190i®.
The Smarty is a Far Infrared Sauna device that is manufactured by the Fujika company of Tokyo, Japan. The device uses infrared rays from 3 to 14 microns in length and is said to able to burn from 600 to 2400 calories in just one 30-minute full session. This allows the patient to relax in a horizontal position while getting a sauna. (One can buy this machine for personal use for around $3,500.)
Far Infra Red (FIR) Saunas
It is unclear, however, exactly what are the health benefits of far infrared saunas, particularly for cancer patients. According to assessments of the literature on this subject, there is some evidence to support its use in normalizing blood pressure and treating congestive heart failure, as well as relieving chronic pain, chronic fatigue, obesity and some of the effects of diabetes.
- (Beever R. Far-infrared saunas for treatment of cardiovascular risk factors: summary of published evidence. Can Fam Physician. 2009;5:691-696; Crinnion WJ. Sauna as a valuable clinical tool for cardiovascular, autoimmune, toxicant- induced and other chronic health problems. Altern Med Rev. 2011;16(3):215–225; Wang, Hsei-Wei, Shu-Han Su, Yen-Li Wang, Shih-Ting Chang, Ko-Hsun Liao, Hung-Hao Lo, Ya-Lin Chiu, et al. “MicroRNA-134 Contributes to Glucose-Induced Endothelial Cell Dysfunction and This Effect Can Be Reversed by Far-Infrared Irradiation.” PloS One 11, no. 1 (2016): e0147067)
In the U.S., far infrared saunas can be sold for recreational use only. The real question on most cancer patients’ minds is whether FIRs are comparable in their effects to the whole body hyperthermia (WBH) that is so widely used in European clinics. In other words, could this be a relatively inexpensive and convenient way of getting a beneficial treatment that is generally unavailable in the U.S.? Since each WBH treatment at a European clinic can cost around $500, could one buy such a system for the cost of less than six treatments and then own the machine for one’s indefinite use.
I put this question to Stefan Heckel, president of a company that manufactures the “Heckel Bed,” a whole body hyperthermia device used in most of the European CAM clinics. He reported that far infrared sauna use is also widespread in Germany. But in these cabinets the core temperature of the body does not rise into the febrile range. He believes that in a sauna the core temperature only rises to 100.4º F (38º C).
In a Heckel bed the core temperature rises to 102.2º F (39º C). Thus, while sauna might have a salutary effect in rehabilitation, physiotherapy, orthopedics etc, there is a difference of almost two Fahrenheit degrees in the internal temperature achieved by whole body hyperthermia vs. far infrared sauna. The therapeutic effects of hyperthermia on cancer only begin at 38.5º C (101.3º F) for durations of under four hours. So the two are really not comparable.
One useful tool employed by Dr. Ferre et al. is a blood analysis provided to physicians by SpectraCell® Laboratories of Houston, TX. John F. Crawford, PhD, is the laboratory director. First, a mixture of lymphocytes is isolated from the blood. According to the company’s overview of the test procedure, these cells are then grown in a defined culture medium that contains the optimal levels of all essential nutrients that are necessary to sustain their growth in a cell culture. The T-lymphocytes are then stimulated to grow and this growth is measured by the incorporation of a radioactive trace element (thymidine) into the DNA of the cells.