B.S., C.N.C.

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CANCER AND OXYGEN

This information was researched at the request of a client. Some of it may be controversial, however, it is still something that needs to be known. It is very hard to make informed choices if you are not completely informed.

The metabolism of cancer cells is similar to normal cells because most cancers originate from normal tissues. In normal cells, oxygen is used in the cell along with glucose to produce energy. This is aerobic metabolism and is about 18 times more efficient than anaerobic metabolism where the cell burns glucose in the absence of oxygen. Anaerobic cells have to work harder than aerobic cells to derive energy from the glucose they metabolize. Cancer cells are anaerobic, they are not dependent on oxygen. This characteristic is related to the fact that the mitochondria are defective in cancerous conditions. Under normal conditions of aerobic metabolism, the cell takes in glucose and oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. The tumor cell, with defective mitochondria, cannot carry out this aspect of cellular respiration. It only partially metabolizes glucose, producing lactic acid rather than carbon dioxide. This lactic acid is converted in the liver back into glucose, which in turn feeds the cancer cells. Lactic acid production is undesirable for two reasons. First, it may increase the ability of tumor cells to metastasize, and second, it may stimulate the production of angiogenic factors by macrophages. Cancer cells thrive under conditions of high sugar and low oxygen, associated with fermentation but fare poorly under low sugar, high oxygen conditions. Humans can become oxygen deficient through several routes, including long-term exposure to air pollution (tobacco smoke, auto exhaust), devitalized foods (over coooked, processed, preserved – all of which deplete oxygen), shallow breathing, and inadequate exercise.

Cancer grows in the absence of oxygen, which means if you introduce sufficient oxygen into the body’s cells, this will help reverse the cancer process by suffocating the tumor with too much oxygen. Oxygen at high levels is toxic to cancer cells.

Free radicals, caused by oxidation, under controlled circumstances are deadly to bacteria, viruses, fungi, and cancers. Oxygenation employed under strictly controlled conditions, as in hyperbaric therapy, can have positive therapeutic effects. Most standard chemo drugs – and oxygen therapies work by producing free-radical damage to cancer cells at greater rates than to noncancerous cells.

The lack of oxygen alters the normal cell’s respiration during growth, triggering development of cancer cells. All normal cells have an absolute requirement for oxygen, but, cancer cells can live without oxygen. Cancer cells meet their energy needs in part by the fermentation of glucose. Angiogenesis occurs in established tumors to provide nourishment. In the case of tumors, that nourishment is in the form of glucose. Hypoxic conditions are created in solid tumors, in a large part, by the chaotic and faulty development of the vasculature during tumor angiogeneis. The new vessels are surrounded by poorly developed basement membranes. Because of this, they are thin-walled and leaky. These factors, in conjunction with a lack of tumor lymph vessels lead to the creation of pressure gradients in the tumors. These, in turn, compress the vessels and restrict, or occlude, blood flow. This is primarily the cause of the hypoxia-induced necrosis in many large tumors.

Hypoxia itself may also stimulate angiogenesis. Macrophages, in an hypoxic environment, secrete large amounts of angiogenesis factor. Under high oxygen conditions, no angiogenesis factor is produced. Cells within hypoxic areas respond poorly to radiotherapy. Agents that increase blood flow and therefore oxygen, have been investigated as adjuvants in radiotherapy.

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