It has been long known in the medical field that proper healing of the body and resistance to infection cannot occur without oxygen.
Oxygen is believed to be required for all the major processes involved in wound healing, including resistance to infection, activation of fibroblasts, collagen deposition, angiogenesis, and epithelization.
Under normal circumstances, oxygen is carried through the body by red blood cells only, this is sufficient for a healthy person to have all the oxygen required to maintain normal functioning. But what about when someone is sick and how does this play a role in cancer treatment?
Taking a look at the cancer tumor, it is surrounded by an environment that is lacking oxygen (hypoxic). This hypoxic environment is a critical hallmark of solid tumors and basically a protective shield for anything trying to kill the tumor. Hypoxia directly involves enhanced tumor cell survival, angiogenesis, glycolytic metabolism, and metastasis.
On top of that, hypoxia has been shown to increase genetic instability, activate invasive growth, and also maintain the cancer cell in its rapidly dividing undifferentiated state. Not only does hypoxia enable cancer tumor growth and proliferation, studies have shown that hypoxia is also implicated in the resistance to chemotherapy and radiation.
This is due to a decreased effectiveness in delivery to a hypoxic area, and hypoxia induces cellular adaptations which lead to resistance. All of this means that higher chemotherapy and radiation doses are required to outweigh the hypoxia. This can be a dangerous cycle that only fuels cancer growth, so what is an alternative treatment plan?
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment where a patient receives 100% pure oxygen, either delivered through a tube or in a pressurized room.
When undergoing HBOT, oxygen gets into all bodily fluids (not just the red blood cells) including lymph, bones, plasma, and central nervous system fluids. This enables oxygen to reach all areas of the body that red blood cells may not be able to get to, providing concentrated oxygen to any damaged tissues to promote healing.
HBOT can significantly reduce inflammation in the body. High levels of oxygen can promote the growth of new blood vessels but not the growth of cancer cells because that happens through anaerobic activity. Since cancer cells proliferate anaerobically, the increased concentrated oxygen to a tumor area will not only prevent further growth but it will overwhelm the cancer cells inducing apoptosis (cellular death).
Think about an NFL player on the sidelines receiving oxygen. This is because their energy levels are depleted and they need pure oxygen to replenish. When a patient is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, which can be toxic to normal cells, the HBOT can help to replenish life back into those cells. Not only that but it will help reduce the hypoxia surrounding the tumor leaving tumor cells more sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation.
By administering concentration oxygen to a hypoxic area, you’re basically wiping out that “protective shield” leaving the cancer tumor more exposed to radiation. And forcing oxygen into cells that multiply anaerobically will kill them because they do not have the defenses needed to survive. Furthermore, radiation (which is more local than chemotherapy) forms unstable hydrogen and hydroxyl radicals. These radicals react with molecular oxygen leading to serious DNA strand damage and cell death.
This leads scientists to conclude that radiation treatment gives an optimal therapeutic result in well-oxygenated tumor tissue.
HBOT can also repair any chronic damages that were caused by radiation exposure, as well as lessen the side effects one experiences with undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. Side effects including dizziness, fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath are due to anemia which is decreased oxygen-carrying red blood cells. Increased oxygen will help to eliminate anemia and therefore relieve those side effects.
Chemotherapy and radiation can also cause infections, fever, sore throat, wounds that do not heal, or inflammation due to decreased white blood cells, with HBOT, oxygen can get into the lymph system to help restore white blood cell levels. Chemotherapy can also cause low platelet count, this will lead to increased bruising and bleeding. Patients may experience nosebleeds, bleeding gums, blood in urine or stool and for women, it can cause a heavier menstrual flow. With HBOT, oxygen can get into the plasma and help boost platelet counts.
HBOT helps to stimulate stem cell growth.
Stem cells are basically brand new cells that have not differentiated into a specific type yet. Meaning they have the potential to convert into any type of cell. They can be coaxed or called to action by certain illnesses or diseases. For example, someone with diabetes can introduce stem cells into their pancreas and they will develop into insulin-releasing cells. Someone with heart failure can introduce stem cells into the heart and they will develop into new strong cardiac muscle.
A landmark study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine revealed that HBOT dramatically increases stem cell activity. Results were astounding in that after only one treatment of HBOT, stem cells had doubled! These brand new stem cells will go to areas affected by chemotherapy and radiation to help rebuild. Some people with cancer, especially leukemia or lymphoma may need a stem cell transplant, but HBOT may help so that the patient does not need to undergo another procedure.