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Trial begins on re-oxygenation of tumours

New method could stop drug resistance

Jo Carlowe

Wednesday, 08 June 2016

Scientists are developing a drink packed with oxygen microbubbles to tackle hard to treat tumours.

Some tumours have learnt to adapt to harsher, low-oxygen conditions making them more resistant to drugs, so Cancer Research UK researchers, from the University of Oxford and Ulster University, are investigating ways to re-oxygenate tumours with a drink that delivers extra oxygen to the tumour site. 

As tumours grow, the blood vessels delivering essential nutrients, including oxygen, become increasingly twisted and weak meaning chemotherapy fails to penetrate the heart of the tumour.

The researchers are looking at how oxygen bubbles get from the stomach to pancreatic tumours in the laboratory and working out whether this could be done by giving patients the equivalent of a bubbly drink.

The scientists chose pancreatic cancer because these tumours are badly starved of oxygen leaving patients with limited treatment options.

Current methods of oxygenating tumours in patients includes breathing pure oxygen, putting patients in oxygen chambers or injecting liquids full of oxygen directly to the tumour site. These are effective but can have serious side effects.

This new approach could have fewer risks, cost less, and could easily be used to boost other treatments.

Professor Eleanor Stride, Cancer Research UK scientist at the University of Oxford, said: “We’re especially excited about the potential this bubbly drink could have for hard to treat cancers like pancreatic cancer, where survival rates are low and better treatments are urgently needed.

“We’ve had success in the lab in mice, so we’re now looking at how to scale this up for patients.”

The funding for this research is given through the Cancer Research UK Pioneer Awards scheme which offers up to £200,000 to encourage innovative ideas, from individuals or teams, from any background that could be game changing in tackling cancer.

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