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Does Hyperbaric Oxygen Kill Cancer Cells?

cancer treatment hyperbaric oxygen therapy benefits

By Dr. David Jockers DC, MS, CSCS

We know that oxygen is essential to normal cellular physiology. Cancer cells have an altered metabolism and no longer depend upon oxygen. In fact, high oxygenated environments are toxic to cancer cells and both slows their growth and triggers cell death mechanisms within them. Is there a way to increase oxygen in the body to support healthy cell function while being a detriment to cancer cell function?

Our bodies rely on the constant supply of oxygen intake to survive. Our atmosphere is approximately 21% oxygen. This element is required by every cell in the human body to produce cellular energy via the mitochondria. High flow oxygen therapy can deliver 100% oxygen in a pressurized atmosphere and results in extraordinary healing benefits.

When oxygen is administered at high pressure rates, up to 20 times more oxygen can be absorbed by the bloodstream. This oxygen is transported to damaged organs and tissue which speeds up both healing and recovery time. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy delivers pure oxygen up to 3 times the normal atmospheric pressure. Sessions typically range from 30 to 90 minutes.

Benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

HBOT can benefit any patient who is healing from a condition triggered by inflammation in the body. The healing process can be improved using HBOT to deliver a higher rate of oxygen to damaged tissue. In fact, oxygen controls more than 8,000 genes and is one of the most natural forms of antibiotics. Twenty sessions of therapy improves the function of stem cells by eightfold.

HBOT has also been shown to help with the following:

Stimulates new blood vessel growth and increase blood flow. Elevates the body’s natural immune defenses to fight infection and bacteria. Reduces swelling that may occur around damaged areas. Speeds up healing by increasing tissue oxygen levels to areas in the body where they are reduced due to injury or illness.

HBOT Compliments Radiation Treatment

HBOT is often used as a complementary therapy for cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment. It reduces the inflammation in tissue and bones adjacent to the site where the radiotherapy produces excessive reactive oxygen species. HBOT also helps to heal and regenerate blood vessels that have been damaged through radiation treatment.

A 2009 study done in Japan involving patients with brain tumors receiving radiation and chemotherapy concurrently experienced longer survival times and reduced side effects when using HBOT as a complementary treatment. Another study done the same year also showed extended survival times and reduced side effects using HBOT with radiation treatments in patients with glioma tumors.

Cancer Metabolism

Otto Warburg was a world renowned cell biologist and cancer researcher. He discovered that cancer cells exhibit an abnormal metabolism and cannot thrive during cellular respiration (oxygen involving). The organelles which drive this cellular function are the mitochondria which produce cellular energy. Healthy mitochondria use oxygen in a process called aerobic metabolism to produce energy in what is called the Krebs Cycle.

Cancer cells instead rely on a process known as glucose fermentation produced from substrate level phosphorylation. Researcher Dr. Thomas Seyfried found that cancer cells have the capacity to produce energy from both glucose and amino acid fermentation using the amino acid glutamine. Neither of these processes use oxygen and are considered anaerobic.

Risks and Contraindications of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Possible side effects for HBOT use include ear popping, claustrophobia, mild sinus discomfort, brief lasting short-sightedness called myopia, and in rare cases pulmonary oxygen toxicity. Very rarely will pulmonary oxygen toxicity induce seizures.

Most patients will not generally experience symptoms and are able to return to work immediately. Other patients may experience temporary changes in vision once they have completed 20 sessions or more. If you experience high fever, have untreated air or gas in the pleural space of the lung, or have an untreated seizure disorder you should not use hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Consult your doctor if you are pregnant.

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