Oxygen is the most vital element required for respiration and production of energy by the body tissues and cells. It is also extremely important for warding off the disease causing microorganisms from the body. The air that we breathe in contains 21% oxygen, but owing to atmospheric changes the level of free oxygen is getting lower day by day, giving rise to a potentially weakened immunity status. A low or diminished supply of oxygen causes oxygen–deficiency diseases, this being one of the major trigger factors for the development of cancer. Our cells can receive up to 100% oxygen, which can even boost our immune system and also simultaneously correct oxygen deficiency. The major sources of oxygen apart from atmospheric oxygen include ozone, magnesium peroxide and hydrogen peroxide. A study carried out in the year 2004, published in Epidemiology Journal, stated that drinking ozonated water can guard the body against the effects of carcinogens and can also significantly reduce the risk of bladder cancer. Therefore, based on such research trials, the thought of oxygen therapy for treating cancer was put forth.
The most interesting property of cancer cells is that they can survive in an environment, where the oxygen level is low, often described as hypoxic environments. Based on this theory, when more oxygen is supplied to the cells, the ability of the cancer cells to thrive in such a type of environment gets greatly reduced, thus arresting its growth. According to Dr. Otto Warburg, the crucial factor that leads to the development of cancer is the substitution of the normal cellular respiration by fermentation of sugar. This indicates that, cancer cells utilize the sugar and not oxygen for their energy and growth. Dr. Warburg also added that cancer is predominantly caused by dysfunction in the mitochondrial metabolism, which has been further supported in modern research by research biochemist Dr. Thomas Seyfrield, who authored the controversial publication, Cancer as a Metablic Disease.
Such sequence of events indicates that cancer cells thrive in hypoxic environment, utilizing glucose for their source of energy through the glycolytic pathway. Glycolysis is an anaerobic process, further suggesting that cancer cells can proliferate in conditions with limited supply of oxygen. The end product of glycolytic pathway is pyruvate which is converted to lactate or lactic acid in many organisms for the production of energy. Excessive production of lactic acid in the body by the cancer cells paves way for the condition of lactic acidosis to sneak in, which includes symptoms of fatigue, tiring easily and shortness of breath.
According to many researchers, understanding cancer metabolism (essentially the microenvironment of cancer cells) will help in designing more effective and powerful strategies to draw a treatment plan that would help curb the growth of tumor cells. Targeting the metabolic pathways of cancer metabolism can possibly achieve more desirable results as attested by Dr. Seyfried in his experiements. Addressing both the current treatment models of targeting the growth signals by cancer cells, together with the targeting the metabolism can potentially provide more effective protocols.
Oxygen therapy as an alternative treatment method for treating cancer is gaining recognition as new studies confirm a positive link between oxygen therapy and its effects on stimulating the immune system. A study published in the Science Translational Medicine Journal, documented the results of a research study which stated that oxygen therapy is said to shrink tumors and can also drastically improve the survival rate of patients with cancer. It was found that, inhaling 40 – 60% of oxygen boost the immune system, which in turn becomes potent enough to fight away the tumor cells. The process of oxygenation is also extremely capable of weakening the ability of the cancer cells to resist the activity of the body’s immune system. Yet another study carried out in the year 2010, showed that when leukemia cells were exposed to high pressure oxygen, the growth of cancer cells decreased by about 15%. Author of the research study, Professor Henry Lai added that, using a combination of high pressure oxygen along with drug artemisinin, decreased the growth of cancer cells by 38%. The effect of the oxygen therapy method was studied only for 48 hours. The authors said that when the duration of exposure would be longer, more dramatic positive results are expected.
The various forms of oxygen therapy for cancer treatment include ozone therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and hydrogen peroxide therapy. Ozone therapy involves mixing ozone with the blood that is drawn from the patient’s body and transferring the blood mixed ozone back to the body. As a result, the blood becomes more oxygenated and various types of disease causing organisms are destroyed, without affecting the healthy cells.
The hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves the breathing of 100% medical grade oxygen, which is particularly helpful in overcoming the condition of hypoxia. Studies have postulated that the hyperbaric oxygen therapy possesses tumor – inhibitory properties which is successful enough to beat cancer.
Hydrogen peroxide therapy is still in its infancy in helping cancer patients and suggested effective protocols, although providing good anecdotal evidence, need further robust and rigourous research to determine optimal effectiveness.
In addition to the advantages that the oxygen therapies offer, these methods also bring along several risk factors. Some of the risk factors include infection, seizures and stroke. So, it is with due caution that cancer patients identify an appropriately medically qualified individual to guide them through safe and effective treatment procedures.
These oxygen therapies are expected to bring about the desired effect only when the patient exercises regularly and eats a nutritious and healthy diet. To further strengthen this fact, researchers have stressed that regular exercise significantly decreases the chances of cancer recurrence and simultaneously improves the survival rate after cancer diagnosis. Therefore, in view of all the above stated theories and facts, it can be concluded that oxygen therapy stands a supportive treatment option in helping to beat cancer. However, more studies need to be carried out and trials on humans need to be successfully conducted to confirm the efficacy of these methods.