How Oxygen Affects Cancerous Tumor Growth

We all know how important oxygen is in our lives. Without it, no living, breathing being could survive. Research from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas has now proven that measuring how much oxygen a tumor is getting can be an important link in guiding radiation therapy.

This discovery is hugely important because we know that a lack of oxygen actually stimulates the growth of new blood vessels within a tumor, which in turn leads to or can lead to metastasis and genetic instability within that tumor. Therefore, this research establishes the theory that if cancer tissues with low levels of oxygen (hypoxic tissues) can be made to “breathe in” extra oxygen, or if their oxygen content can be increased, then the tumor’s growth will be slowed and therapy will be improved.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) found that smaller tumors seen on an MRI were significantly better oxygenated than larger tumors were, indicating that the more oxygen a tumor takes in, the slower will be its growth.  

This type of research is definitely a new form of personalized medicine. So, going forward, it is likely that the oxygen concentration of tumors will now be measured, as well as their response to oxygen, and that, after these measurements are taken, oxygen interventions will be given while a patient is receiving radiation therapy. So, you can look forward to hearing more about this topic soon, and to seeing women wearing oxygen masks while they’re receiving breast radiation!

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