How Oxygen Therapy May Boost Cancer Treatments

As the treatments for the many types of cancer in this world continue to develop, advances and breakthroughs are few and far between. Often times, scientists know they are so close to an answer – and yet so far, there is no cure. At this point, most cancer treatments consist of radiation chemotherapy. The treatment can be effective yet the side effects can be debilitating. However, new findings suggest that oxygen may boost the immune system’s ability to fight certain tumors. This research is promising in the future of oxygen use in other cancers as well.

The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, is still in its infancy – the first trial was conducted in mice. Researchers injected high doses of oxygen into the mice and found that it can help stimulate the immune system against tumors. It is believed that this treatment will work in immunotherapy as it could work to boost the immune systems effort to destroy killer cells. The mice in the trial found their tumor sizes reduced as well has increased immune efforts to fight hard-to-treat tumors that had spread.

The researchers explained that the oxygen works to stimulate and enrich immune system cells that are supposed to fight off the bad cells in tumors. Tumors tend to have less oxygen within, meaning that immune system cells cannot breath and work properly. With the extra dose of oxygen, the cells become more powerful and able to attack the bad cells. The study authors were excited yet cautious, as this treatment has not been tested on humans and probably won’t be for some time. Some scientists argue that too much oxygen can make things worse, so the new treatment faces an uphill battle.

Despite this, representatives at the American Cancer Society were thrilled with the study, as the data shows an easy approach to boosting the power of cancer therapies. If all goes well, the oxygen boosters may enhance other immunotherapies and cancer treatments as well. While still in its early stages, researchers are still breathing a sigh of relief.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Luis Romero