A team of researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center has found that measuring oxygen in tumors can help guide radiation therapy, paving the way for new personalized therapies that keep cancer in check.
The findings, published online in the journal Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, also indicated that oxygen can delay the growth of tumor cells when combined with radiation.
Ralph Mason, M.D., said the results show aggressive tumors can be countered with an "oxygen challenge" — having patients inhale oxygen while doctors monitor the tumor response in their bodies and target the cells more precisely with radiation therapies.
Dr. Mason, professor of radiology, said past research has shown lack of oxygen actually stimulates the growth of new blood vessels in tumors and leads to the spread of cancer. Consequently, breathing oxygen or enriching the oxygen content of cancer tissues boosts the effectiveness of therapy, he said.
If the results are confirmed, the implications for personalized therapies for other cancers could mean fewer radiation treatments or even a single high-dose treatment.
"The next step is clinical trials to assess tumor response to radiation therapy," said Dr. Mason, director of the cancer imaging program at the medical center. "The ability to stratify tumors based on [their response to oxygen] offers new opportunities to tailor therapy to tumor characteristics, potentially enhancing success through personalized medicine."
The study was funded, in part, by the National Cancer Institute.
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