To investigate the mechanisms by which heat affects cancer cells, we used 5-thio-D-glucose, an inhibitor of glycolysis in HeLa S-3 cells, under aerobic and hypoxic conditions at temperatures ranging from 37 degrees to 43 degrees C. Drug alone or heat alone killed a minimum number of cells under aerobic or hypoxic conditions. Exposure to drug and hyperthermia selectively increased the number of cells killed under hypoxic conditions at temperatures as low as 40.5 degrees C but had little effect on cells incubated under aerobic conditions. These results suggest that the glycolytic pathways is a primary site of hyperthermic damage leading to cell death.

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